March 03 2014

THE future of Emersons Green Village Hall could be at risk because of a funding row.

emersons green village hall

The people who run the hall want to upgrade the facilities but say they cannot go ahead after being told that Mangotsfield Rural Parish Council is withdrawing its £65,000-a-year grant.

The council says the hall should not have such a high level of public funding because it is predominately used by commercial businesses.

Both sides say negotiations have reached an impasse.

The hall, which was built in 2004, hosts dozens of activities every week. These include sports, dance, drama and exercise classes for adults and children, dieting groups, whist, art, quilting, WI, Guides, and church groups. It also runs popular cheap or free holiday activities for children.

The hall is run as a charitable trust by a management committee, which appoints the paid staff.

The trustees have drawn up plans for internal alterations, including removing the stage to create a dance studio. This would enable it to increase the number of groups using the hall, thus bringing in more income.

Vice chairman of the trustees Jim Magness said that although they had enough money in their improvement fund to pay for the work they could not go ahead without an ongoing council grant.

“The hall would not be viable. We would be running at a loss,” he said. “We recognise that we no longer need £65,000. We suggested £35,000. We have spent six months trying to find a way round this.

“We are here for the community and we want to offer more for the community.”

Parish councillors voted in January to give the hall £15,000 a year but a month later decided against any grant. A meeting between the two sides chaired by South Gloucestershire Council ended without agreement.

Mr Magness said: “The future does not look bright.”

Parish council clerk Beverley Ewens said the council had had to make savings so it could keep council tax down while providing more important services to parishioners.

“Last year, the village hall funding cost each household more than £14 out of council tax to run, yet the village hall accounts revealed that for several years this high level of funding had not been necessary. The last accounts dated Dec 2012, reveal a reserve fund of £84,000 and a ‘building fund’ of £140,000,” she said.

“Recently announced building alterations to the inside of the building, would appear to favour the use of the hall by current users and in particular commercial businesses at the expense of the groups which Emersons Green Village Hall should support by virtue of its constitution.

“Other local voluntary groups and community facilities are struggling for funding this year, but the total amount that MRPC had available to help them was only £8,000 in 2013, an eighth of the annual grant paid to the village hall. This year it is hoped that the amount of grant funding available to these groups could be considerably increased.

“MRPC has repeatedly proposed options to the village hall to reduce the amount of funding, but these have been dismissed.”

She said the hall trustees could apply to the parish council and to other funding bodies for grants in future in the same way that other organisations do.