LEEK Tourist Information office is to move into the Nicholson Institute building in Stockwell Street.
The move will now go ahead after Conservatives councillors on Staffordshire Moorlands District Council voted to support their ruling cabinet in the decision to relocate the premises in an effort to save money.
Tempers flared at a special scrutiny meeting of the authority on Wednesday night as opposition councillors fought to move the tourist office into the Foxlowe building at the top of Market Place which they felt was more beneficial and more prominent for visitors to find.
The council has been looking to sublet the premises since September 2011 if an effort to save more than £300,000.
Opening the debate councillor Charlotte Atkins said: “What is the point of a scrutiny committee when the cabinet has refused to look at other options. There is no objection to relocating the tourist office; it is about it being in a prominent position.
“The Foxlowe rent would be about £5,000 and their volunteers would help to staff it which could give longer opening hours. This is less money than it is costing us to a lease car for the chief executive.
“This decision will close down the tourist office as it will be hidden away and we will lose passing trade. When it was moved while refurbishment work took place footfall was 56 per cent less.”
Councillor John Fisher said the premises were crucial for tourism to be promoted in the Staffordshire Moorlands.
He said: “How can it be justified to move the premises into a lobby? This is downgrading the Moorlands. Many elderly people do not use computers and people like face to face service.
“Banks and estate agents have websites but still retained high street premises. We have a new hotel being built but we are downgrading tourism.
“If the portfolio officer responsible for this decision is not prepared to negotiate a move to the Foxlowe then she must be held responsible for the demise of tourism.”
Councillor Gill Burton, who has the responsibility for Communities including tourism, said the council needed to save £2,257,440 in the medium term financial plan.
She said: “Transferring the tourist office to the Nicholson Institute will consolidate two sites and will compliment each other.
“There is a lift to the proposed location and people do not have a problem finding the Nicholson Institute. There will be additional signage.
“Moving the tourist office into a council asset will save taxpayers money.
“The Foxlowe future is still uncertain and the IT costs would be high. By moving into the Nicholson Institute people will have the museum, shop and tourist office together.”
Council leader, Sybil Ralphs, said that the scrutiny committee views had not been ignored.
She said: “Talks have taken place with the Foxlowe sometime ago. Councillor Fisher asked for this council to give them a loan, but we have had valuations which were no more than £600,000 for the premises.
“On value that is half of what they are paying, so we cannot give any loan. Why don’t the town council move into the Foxlowe if they want to support it?”
On a name vote councillors voted not to proceed in taking the issue back to the cabinet to review their original decision, which means that the move to the Nicholson can now go ahead.