Future of Alford's historic Corn Exchange in doubt over funding fears
THE future of an historic community building is at risk after a town council announced they can no longer afford to run it.
Alford Town Council, who manage the Corn Exchange in the Market Place through a lease agreement from East Lindsey District Council, has announced it wants to hand it back to ELDC because of increasing budget pressures.
The town council made the announcement while setting the next financial year’s precept.
Like other town councils who are having to make cutbacks in their budgets, Alford Town Council will have to significantly dip into their reserves next year to meet the cost of services they provide, rather than significantly increasing the amount of money the council receives from residents through council tax.
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The Grade II listed Corn Exchange was leased from ELDC in 2009 to prevent its closure.
A public meeting was held in January 2011 to try to form a charitable trust to take over the management of the building.
The group has not been forthcoming so the town council now believes handing it back is the most logical cutback without impacting severely on other services.
Councillor Peter Milson said: “The announcement is giving notice that this is our intention. The town council tries hard not to raise the amount of money we ask of the people of Alford. These are strained economic times and we want to keep the cost to the taxpayer at a minimum.
“The Corn Exchange is a fairly high, expensive budget item. This was a hard decision to make but we have other costs in providing CCTV, our own market, the cemetery and public toilets.
“The money is there in our budget to fund the Exchange for the next 12 months. We have given our intention about where we go from there and hope to enter into negotiations with East Lindsey District Council.”
The town council could also be looking for a new home as the parish office is based at the Corn Exchange.
At their meeting last week, the council voted to increase the precept by 2.5 per cent – a £1.63 increase per band D property.
But the council may have to fund the Corn Exchange until at least 2016 because of its lease agreement.
Gary Sargeant, corporate property manager at East Lindsey District Council, said: “Alford Town Council has a 40 year lease for the Corn Exchange, with effect from April 1, 2009.
“The town council has a break clause in the lease that, subject to meeting certain conditions, could allow them to vacate the property at the end of March 2016.
“We would be happy to meet with the town council to discuss the future of the Corn Exchange if they no longer wish to occupy the property beyond that date.”