COUNCIL chiefs have been accused of gambling with taxpayers money after they agreed plans to invest £1million in the town ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
Rugby Borough Council chiefs this week agreed to use the cash to capitalise on the town’s official ‘Proud Home’ status during the tournament, which kicks off in England in September.
The plans will see a village created at the Old Market site featuring a fanzone and events and activities throughout the tournament in a bid to boost trade.
And the cash will also fund improvements to the town centre including refurbishments to car parks and signage.
But Pete McLaren, secretary of the Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which campaigns against council cuts, said the authority should look elsewhere for funding and focus on maintaining services.
He said: “Rugby Borough Council may claim this money represents an investment as it will boost tourism, but that is pure speculation – a gamble with our money – especially as the town will, unfortunately, not be hosting any World Cup matches.
“We are strongly of the opinion that the council should look elsewhere for funding and use what cash it does have to protect jobs and services.
“We need to make it clear we are not opposed to Rugby celebrating the World Cup, but, at a time of austerity, it should be financed by the Rugby Football Union and the Government.”
The council insists the plans will be funded through a mixture of developer contributions, borough council budget, reserves, sponsorship and other third party funding, including income from events and activities.
Culture chief Coun Heather Timms insisted prudent management of the budget meant the council could afford to contribute to what she said was a once-in-a-generation chance to present the town to a global audience.
She said: “The tournament will attract around half a million overseas visitors to the UK who will stay up to 24 nights each on average and spend nearly £1billion. Our investment is aimed at making sure that our businesses and residents are able to benefit, while ensuring that there will be better facilities for residents at the end of the tournament.”
Town centre improvements will include a revamp of street furniture and signage, new coach parking facilities, refurbished toilets, and improvements to the John Barford and Westway car parks.
The town’s Pathway of Fame – a series of plaques celebrating some of the sport’s all-time greats – could also get a facelift before the tournament starts.
And the funding is also proposed to cover an educational programme for schools and provide training for volunteers, while other schemes include a planting scheme and arts commissions.