Wirksworth has a population of just over 6,000 residents and, though not as substantial a number as Bakewell, Ashbourne or Matlock, it is enough to warrant its status as a centre of some importance within Derbyshire Dales. It holds a regionally acclaimed annual Arts Festival, a dynamic Well Dressing and Carnival week, it has viable markets, the new Eco and the National Stone Centres are on our doorstep, and furthermore we will shortly have the start of our own rail passenger service to Duffield!
It also has a reputation for getting things done from within the town, we have a strong volunteer base and a large active network of community groups; indeed “the big society” was up and running in Wirksworth long before David Cameron came up with the idea.
Despite this, and disregarding the excellent leisure centre built in the 1990s, with, incidentally, over £70k raised by the community, the town has suffered over recent years from a lack of financial investment by Derbyshire Dales District Council. Since 2007, Wirksworth has had only 1.1 per cent of the council’s total capital expenditure invested in the town.
Whilst the three towns mentioned above are about to gain brand spanking new toilets, Wirksworth has to put up with what now seems like permanent closure of one and the inadequate state of the remaining public convenience.
It has taken considerable pressure to reinstate the funding for the promised revamp of its Gorsey Bank Recreation Ground; money, incidentally, that came from the previous Labour government but was taken away by the Tories. Wirksworth appears to limp behind others when it comes to the order of priority.
It is also worth noting that discussions are taking place to seek alternative ways to fund and run the Wirksworth Learner Pool, i.e. take it out of DDDC responsibility. Some see this as codified language for closure. Are we seeing the gathering clouds of yet another fight to save a vital community asset?
Wirksworth’s district council representatives, being Labour in a Conservative dominated administration, are often viewed as “the awkward squad”. That they seek to question, challenge and hold to account those responsible for our services is true but if co-operation is desired for mutual benefit then fairness and consideration in the allocation of DDDC capital and maintenance budgets is essential.
Cllr Mike Ratcliffe