Plymouth beauty spot Mount Edgcumbe under threat as budget is slashed
THE future of one of Plymouth's top beauty spots is under threat as its budget could be slashed.
Mount Edgcumbe, on the Rame peninsula, is a popular destination for Plymothians.
The former home of the earls of Mount Edgcumbe is owned and run jointly by Plymouth and Cornwall Councils. Its grounds provide a free day out for city people, and the 16th century house helps to make it one of the region's most popular historic tourist destinations. It is also used for weddings and conferences.
Now, without warning, Cornwall Council is proposing to slash its contribution to the £384,000 budget by £66,000 – and says it will go on cutting for three years.
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The move will leave Mount Edgcumbe with a gaping hole in an already tight budget.
Cllr Vivien Pengelly, a Plymouth member of the joint committee, said: "Hopefully this will not be the start of running it down and eventually selling it off. It would be a sad day if it was sold privately."
Last year both councils had to pump in an extra £45,000 to keep the operation afloat, and the committee expects to have a £10,000 shortfall by the end of this financial year.
Cllr Peter Smith, co-chairman of the committee which oversees Mount Edgcumbe, told a meeting of Plymouth City Council that the proposal had come "out of the blue". He said: "I don't know what's going on."
The Cornish co-chairman of the committee, George Trubody, quit the council last Friday. A Cornwall Council spokeswoman said his departure had nothing to do with the budget decision.
Cllr Pengelly said she feared that Plymouth would also have to slash its funding as the agreement is for equal contributions.
"I'm shocked," Mrs Pengelly said. "Cornwall has withdrawn the funding without consulting the joint committee.
"I believe Cornwall wants to sell Mount Edgcumbe. If that's the case, could Plymouth afford to take it over for the benefit of our citizens, who love going over there?
"It's a wonderful asset. The grounds are free to visit and home to the National Camellia Collection."
A Plymouth council spokeswoman said: "We understand that Cornwall is having to make some extremely difficult decisions in light of Government funding cuts, falling income and rising costs.
"It is disappointing that it has decided to make a £66,000 reduction to its support for Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park next year.
"Discussions are under way with Cornwall about the implications."
The constitution governing the joint ownership of Mount Edgcumbe stipulates that any funding decision by either council should be followed by the other. Though plans to reduce the level of public subsidy were already being considered, they are at a very early stage and Cornwall's decision leaves an immediate funding shortfall for next year," the spokeswoman said.
A spokesman for Cornwall Council said: "There is a proposal by the Council to reduce the subsidy for Mount Edgcumbe by £66,000 for the 2013 / 2014 financial year as part of the authority’s proposed budget. No decision has yet been made – the Council will meet to decide on its budget on 26 February. The proposal is also subject to agreement with Plymouth City Council and Cornwall Council is now engaging with Plymouth City Council on the potential consequences of a reduction in the subsidy."