Cllr Marcus Barr accused the town council of “lacking vision, direction and leadership” when other members declined to back his proposal of donating £50,000 towards the planned £2m restoration of Wellington Monument, due to start next year.
“We have to set an example as a council, dip into our own pockets and lead the way on this. We need to stand up and be counted so that people know we’re serious,” he said at the March town council meeting.
Cllr John Thorne was quick to question the relative importance of the Monument to the town, saying: “Put in the context of a much-needed railway station and new sports pitches, these things are much more important than a Monument that we don’t own, have no rights over, and isn’t even in our parish.”
Cllr Mark Lithgow reminded the meeting that when the Monument was under construction in the early 19th century it was deeply unpopular with many townspeople who were taxed to help pay for it. “It’s a national monument and the Trust is launching a national appeal to pay for it. We’ve got more important things to spend our money on,” he added.
Mayor Gary James calmed the debate by suggesting that the issue was not needing an immediate decision and that when the Trust launched its appeal it should be discussed again by the town council. “The Monument is part of us. It’s our history,” he added.