Not such a Big Society

A TRUSTEE of the volunteer-run Chipping Norton Lido – held up by Prime Minister David Cameron as a shining example of the Big Society in action – has made a big splash on You Tube by advising people against volunteering to run local facilities.

Ken Norman, director and trustee of the Lido, which was taken over by volunteers in 2003 after West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC) said it could no longer afford to run it, has gone online to pour cold water on the idea of the Big Society after the district council withdrew discretionary rate relief from the Lido.

The decision, made by WODC cabinet member for resources Simon Hoare, means the charity will now have to find an additional £1,600 to pay its rates on top of the £25,000 it has to raise to cover its annual deficit.

To do this, volunteers run an annual auction hosted by Top Gear presenter and Chippy resident Jeremy Clarkson, quizzes, cake sales and other fund-raising acitivties.

Mr Norman has slammed the district council and Coun Hoare for their action in withdrawing rate relief.

“What a fantastic way of treating the Big Society.

“You ask people to take over the facilities you can no longer run and then you clobber them once they are running it.

“I say to anybody thinking about running a library or running a school, I wouldn’t if I were you,” he said.

Coun Hoare hit back this week, saying he had withdrawn rate relief from the Lido as it has £26,000 in reserves and that, at a time when there is pressure on the public purse, he would rather direct relief to other volunteer- run organisations with less money.

“Don’t forget the Lido gets 80 per cent mandatory relief and if they didn’t want to eat into their reserves all they have to do is increase their entry price by 10p,” said Coun Hoare.

Mr Norman plans to take part in the Great North Run in September to raise £1,600.

His You Tube video has been watched by by more than 9,200 people.

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