Confusing opinion with the facts

Councillor Peter Burgess appears to confuse ill-informed Old Town Hall opinion with facts (Letters 7.6.12).

PB opinion: “Grants are available. Yes, but that needs a charitable trust and no-one has tried to form one.”

Fact: The Blue Flash Music Trust is a registered charity formed in 2003. Its Patron is the world-famous cellist Julian Lloyd Webber. Mr Lloyd Webber said he was delighted to become the trust’s patron because he had played in the Old Town Hall soon after he graduated from the Royal College of Music and was impressed by the acoustic qualities of the building. The grants for the BFMT proposal from the Community Buildings Fund and Reaching Communities Fund six years ago had to be abandoned due to the cabinet decision of March 2006.

PB opinion: It (the Old Town Hall) now needs a major refurbishment costing around £800,000 for future use.

Fact: It needs around £200,000, none of it required on ‘day one’. The council originally had £215,814 reserved in its accounts for this purpose before it decided to spend the money on other things.

PB opinion: “It should be retained for community use. Who wants it?”

Fact: The Blue Flash Music Trust submitted a winning community bid that was approved and recommended by the council’s own Old Town Hall Advisory Group in February 2006. The plan was in line with the council’s ‘Tourism Strategy for Horsham District’ supplied by its commissioned consultants. The recommended proposal was irrationally trumped by an ‘ultra vires’ (beyond its powers) decision by the HDC cabinet in March of that year. The cabinet had no right to contravene council policy for community use at that time.

The Old Town Hall unnecessarily remained largely empty for six years as a result. The tourism benefits to Horsham from the proposal were lost during that time.

PB opinion: “Anyway no grant would cover anywhere near the total cost required, so it would have to be paid by residents at around £10 per household.”

Fact: The BFMT approved and recommended plan six years ago was at ‘zero cost’ to the taxpayer, as called for by the council’s OTH Advisory Group. HDC has unnecessarily spent scores of thousands of taxpayers money in desperately trying to find an OTH solution since. The irrational decision to turn down the superior Gondola bid for the OTH at £72,500 per annum in 2009, also squandered for the taxpayer a further half million pounds (over the proposed term of the lease). It meant the OTH lay unnecessarily empty for another three years too.

PB opinion: “Sounds good to me”.

My opinion based on the facts: “Sounds very bad to me”.

Martin Jeremiah

Business Adviser to the Blue Flash Music Trust

East Street, Horsham