Forum on the brink

PUBLISHED: 10:19 22 November 2007 | UPDATED: 13:04 04 May 2010

ONE of Soham s long-standing institutions could fold after members were told East Cambs District Council had slashed its budget. The Town Forum, set up by the late teacher and Rotarian Lionel Hart 10 years ago, has had its funding withdrawn after council

ONE of Soham's long-standing institutions could fold after members were told East Cambs District Council had slashed its budget.

The Town Forum, set up by the late teacher and Rotarian Lionel Hart 10 years ago, has had its funding withdrawn after councillors voted to make savings from the community services budget.

Town Forum chairman Robert Peacock said he was given just two days' notice of the cut, which is effective from the forum's next meeting in January.

"We will need a secretary and a treasurer by January or the forum will be in grave trouble."

The function was provided by East Cambs District Council previously, but the service has now been withdrawn.

Peter Beer, who has been involved with the forum since it started, said: "It's almost as if they are imposing the cuts by stealth. The community services committee is making savings left right and centre. Why do they have to do it at the expense of the people of Soham?"

Funding charity projects is provided through the forum, which has given grants and support to organisations as diverse as the community history museum, Viva and Dial-a-Ride.

A district council representative told the shocked forum members that Neighbourhood Panels could be set up to replace the town forum.

"It was a bit of a red herring," said Peter Beer.

"As I understand it, the Neighbourhood Panel is primarily concerned with policing and safety issues. There is nowhere for people to go if they want to talk about having a train station, and nowhere to go for help on putting on a production."

Donna Martin, who is also a member of the forum, said: "The vote to keep the forum going was almost unanimous. Neighbourhood Panels involve all our surrounding villages and happen every few months.

"The police are involved with it so meetings are normally about anti-social behaviour, whereas for the last 10 years we have had an open meeting for anyone from Soham to come and say their piece on any subject."

She told the meeting on November 15 that to cut funding to the forum just a month after burying its founder was "an absolute disgrace".

The next meeting of Soham Town Forum is on January 17 at The Pavillion. Residents are encouraged to offer their expertise to keep the community service alive.

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