Forget sentiment when cash is tight

Ilkeston Registry office
Ilkeston Registry office

Mark Hutchby (Letters, September 16) opposes the transfer of Ilkeston Register Office from its present location to a new berth in the Town Hall.

A move is necessary due to the poor state of the current building and officials are duty-bound to consider alternative sites.

However, Mr Hutchby’s insistence that the Mayor’s Parlour and the Town Hall, of which it is a component, should not be part of these deliberations makes no sense in practical or economic terms.

In times of austerity, when essential public services are facing the axe, we should view expenditure on mayoral upkeep with an unsentimental eye.

Figures released at a recent meeting of the Ilkeston Community Forum confirmed that on current costs, £1,600 per week is taken from public funds to finance the office of the Erewash Mayor.

Robes and associated regalia are of a limited historic interest, in my view, and I suspect that the vast majority of Erewash residents would prefer that the budget for Mayoral maintenance was diverted to modern day needs; such as funding care in the community or contributing to walk-in centre costs.

These ideas surely informed the thinking of some residents at the Community Forum, who suggested that Erewash Borough Council should hold a public referendum to see whether local residents wished to continue financing a Mayor.

The decision should rightly be taken by residents rather than councillors who might be reluctant to abolish the prestige of a mayoral year.

The duties of mayor could easily be absorbed – at no cost to the public purse — within the round of a councillor’s duties. A sitting councillor could be elected to chair meetings – holding the casting vote, like the current Mayors.

Attending charity and business functions is part of a councillor’s duty to the community and is reflected in their remuneration and expense package on election. There is no need to finance another person to duplicate these responsibilities.

Above all, it makes sense to use some parts of the Town Hall for the essentials of modern living. People of all ages already have places to meet; they do not need – nor would they naturally want — to socialize in a 19th century ‘parlour’.

Conversely, facilities in the Town Hall might readily lend themselves to a central and accessible venue in which to carry out the necessary work of registering births, marriages and deaths.

Mark Hutchby’s view of the parlour owes more to sentiment than practicality, in my opinion, and calls to mind the charming 19th century nursery rhyme ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’ with its memorable lines ‘The king was in his counting house, counting out his money. The Queen was in her parlour, eating bread and honey.’

In 21st century Erewash, many have no money to count out and are regular attendees at the food bank, receiving what is doled out to them rather than feasting on delicacies.

Mr Hutchby’s comments belong in fairyland, in my view, just as parlours are best kept in 19th century nursery rhymes.

In modern day Ilkeston, we should let the people decide and their paper, The Advertiser should take the lead.

Let’s have a people’s poll! Do we want ‘fur, feathers and favours’ or should that extra £1,600 go to fund a nurse, retain a library or improve a care home?Democracy, Mr Hutchby, mean s listening to Erewash – even if the answer is not to your liking!

On the question of an expensive, outmoded mayoralty, versus modern, well-funded public services, I’m more than happy to do that! Are you?

Paul Brett,

Duke Street, Ilkeston.