Fears raised of Droit House visitor information centre closure amid council department cuts

Droit House Photo Frank Leppard

Fears have been raised that the visitor information centre in Margate’s Droit House will be shut down as part of a cash-cutting drive by Thanet council.

Cuts are being planned across Thanet council departments -including tourism and operational services  as part of an ‘efficiencies’ programme.

All department heads at the authority have been told to look at how savings can be made as the council attempts to balance its books and not deplete its reserves.

According to the budget for 2019-20 -which was agreed by a majority at full council on February 28 – proposals are to make £250,000 in organisational efficiencies.

The Isle of Thanet News reported earlier this month that some staff had received letters and are  in consultation over possible redundancies.

It is understood that staff have confirmed the visitor information centre at Droit House is expected to be shut on April 22.

The Isle of Thanet News has been told the move had been planned in December but staff were only notified last week.

The property, as part of the Stone Pier, was compulsorily purchased by the then-Labour led council in the 1990s. That was followed by renovation at Droit House.

Margate’s Harbour Arm Photo Frank Leppard

The Stone Pier was later, under a Conservative-led council, leased to Margate Harbour Arm Ltd for £1 per year and Droit House transferred to Kent County Council. The property was then leased back to Thanet council but it is thought this lease is nearing the end of its term.

The reported closure will be a blow to local tourism which brings in some 4.2 million visitors with an annual £319 million spend to the Thanet economy each year, supporting 7,950 jobs.

Tourism comes under the coastal development portfolio. Thanet council Cabinet member Ash Ashbee heads the portfolio and earlier this month told The Isle of Thanet News that she hoped to find ways of raising revenue rather than making cuts – with a specific focus this year on the Turner Prize be hosted at Turner Contemporary.

Thanet council was asked for comment on Friday.