Frustration over cash cut threat to Stourport Civic revamp

A £450,000 gift from Wyre Forest District Council towards the refurbishment of the Stourport Civic Centre is to be reduced by £5,500 for every month that the transfer to the town council is delayed.

Worcestershire County Council, which will take on the running of the Civic with Stourport Town Council and the Civic Group charity, is waiting for its planning application to be accepted before the transfer can go ahead.

UK Independence Party councillor John Holden, the cross-party Civic Centre working party chairman, said he found the situation "frustrating" as Stourport Town Council has to foot the bill despite the delay not being its fault.

Worcestershire County Council’s cabinet agreed in July to contribute most of the £1.35 million needed to refurbish the Civic Centre with the cash-strapped district council giving £450,000 towards the cost.

Wyre Forest District councillor Ian Hardiman, cabinet member for community and wellbeing, said the £5,500 deduction is to cover the "monthly costs" associated with the civic until the transfer takes place in February or March.

Mr Holden said: "This has been dragging on long enough. I can appreciate their [the district council's] concern but having said that, the town council has been ready to sign for quite some time, it's the county council that is not quite ready.

"It's really unfair on the town council to have to foot the bill. We're struggling now, we don't want to put the precept up to pay for it. We have a fantastic treasurer who seems to find a magic wand but he can't every time. I think they're [the district council] being a little bit quick to take money off us.

"It would be nice if the county council would meet us halfway but we've been left on our own and it's not our fault."

Mr Holden also expressed concerns that the district council is "moving the goalposts" as it has put restrictions on the property including the right to use the Civic Hall for up to 10 days a year for free and for emergency accommodation.

He added: "I'm most annoyed. John Campion, the leader of the district council, stood up in a town council meeting three years ago to say there will be no strings attached, now we find they're putting in strings."

Mr Hardiman said: "The council has allocated a £450,000 budget to support the town council in taking over the Civic Centre.

"There are ongoing monthly costs to the tune of around £5,000 per month associated with retaining the Civic Centre and these will be met out of this budget.”

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