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Hereford Town Hall Freehold Disposal to be Considered


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The freehold disposal of Hereford Town Hall is being discussed at a meeting set for August 6th

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It's not a simple 'yes or no question' because this is public money that needs to be spent!

There are huge maintenance costs to consider, many of the county's historical buildings require regular maintenance and the Hereford Town Hall needs at least £2.5M spending on it immediately just to bring it up to standard, but there is a lot more work required. This is mainly down to the lack of ongoing maintenance since back to the 1990's.

The reason for this consideration, from our understanding, is that the Town Hall could be sold to the Hereford City Council and or including a possible 3rd party (CIC) which will be discussed further at the meeting on August 6th 2021. A community interest company (CIC) is a special form of non-charitable limited company, which exists primarily to benefit a community or with a view to pursuing a social purpose, rather than to make a profit for shareholders. Therefore, access to finance – whether through provide donors, grants or community development finance – may lead a social enterprise to operate as a CIC rather than as a standard company. These funding options such as grants etc are available to CIC's but this source of funding would not be available to a Council. 

Councillor Gemma Davies, cabinet member for commissioning, procurement and assets, said that in setting this year’s budget, it was vital £11.2 million in savings was identified, including new approaches to managing council assets.

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“We are in discussions with Hereford City Council around the transfer of Hereford Town Hall to their ownership,”

she said.

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“The possibility of a community asset transfer has been explored, however, a receiving organisation has not been found to date, so the council is now also considering other options.

“We appreciate how much local people and visitors love the town hall. It is a beautiful, historic building, and we have not taken this decision lightly."

Hereford Town Hall was built in 1904 and is a Grade II Listed building.

In order to bring the Hereford Town Hall and other historical buildings across the county up to standard would most likely result in a increase in Council Tax, so the real question here is; 

'Would you prefer in increase in your Council Tax or for Herefordshire Council to consider these other options'?

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Nothing is beyond this bunch of charlatans

The Council say the building needs at least £2.5 million on it. Even if they gave it away to the City Council that would immediately burden them with these costs - which ultimately we as taxpayers would have to cover. So while the County Council may reduce their burden we still have to pay to cover their mismanagement and lack of proper maintenance.

Given these costs no wonder no one else has expressed an interest. What is its best economic use - flats?, restaurant,?, shops?, No it is as Municipal Offices with meeting rooms. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

JULY 21, 2021

A statement from Mayor of Hereford Paul Stevens regarding Hereford Town Hall;

“The City Council was abolished in 1998 when the new Herefordshire Council was formed. All assets of the City Council transferred to the new unitary council.

In 2000 the City Council was recreated as a Parish Council. The only assets that were returned were the allotments. The Town Hall could have been returned at that time but the new council decided not to do that. Since then the building has been owned and maintained by Herefordshire Council. They have had the opportunity to raise funds from renting parts of it out including our offices, Mayor’s Parlour, silver museum and tourist information centre, from weddings and other events.

The unitary council did suggest selling it back for £2m but this was not a reasonable offer and nothing came of it. That was around 2010. Since then there have been some works but nowhere near enough to keep the building in a reasonable condition. We discussed an arrangement whereby the City Council could take the building over providing the essential and most urgent repairs were done, but this was not acceptable to Herefordshire Council. At that time they would have cost about £1.8m for urgent work, with another £4.2m to find over three to five years. More recently we discussed the possibility of a third party forming a charitable trust who would have been able to bring in the essential external funding to enable the building to be kept for future generations and used as a centre of live arts as well as a civic building. That fell through because their trustees needed reassurance about the current and most urgent repair needs.

Setting up a charitable trust to replace them would take about a year and is the only way we can get external funding to try and restore the building. We are not prepared to take it on with huge outstanding repair liabilities that would fall to the City’s tax payers. We are prepared to work with Herefordshire Council, and anyone else who is willing to help with the project, to try and secure a future for the building.”

by Connor Powell

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19 minutes ago, megilleland said:

At that time they would have cost about £1.8m for urgent work, with another £4.2m to find over three to five years.

If these figures are accurate (and I am not doubting them), then for the freehold the building can only be worth £1. An owner who neglects a Listed building to this extent cannot expect to sell it for anything. 

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The City Council working with the County Council would be a first - they've been at each others throats for 21 years now. Only now, when it suits a political argument, are we hearing about muti-million pound repair costs. Are these even realistic? What are they for and how have they been arrived at? This Council has demonstrated beyond doubt that they are incapable of managing large (or any) construction projects, so why should we believe anything they say about this one? We saw how they managed a very minor repair to the Porch of the Town Hall - scaffolded for 2 years was it? The Council seem happy to throw millions at the Shire Hall yet not at the Town Hall - perhaps because the City Council are there? No, this is a public building for the City of Hereford, built with our money for us. It must not be sold.

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Agenda
General scrutiny committee - Tuesday 10 August 2021 10.15 am

* Attendance details
* Agenda frontsheet  PDF 422 KB
* Agenda reports pack  PDF 2 MB
* Add meeting to your calendar using VCS format

Venue: Three Counties Hotel, Belmont Road, Belmont, Hereford, HR2 7BP
Contact: John Coleman, Statutory Scrutiny Officer 
Link: Watch the meeting on the Herefordshire Council youtube channel

Title of report: Freehold Disposal of the Town Hall, St. Owens St. Hereford

Meeting: General scrutiny committee
Meeting date: Tuesday, 10 August 2021
Report by: Statutory Scrutiny Officer

Classification
Open

Decision type
This is not an executive decision

Wards affected
Central

Purpose
To consider proposals for the disposal of the Town Hall, St. Owen Street, Hereford within the context of the council’s overall asset management strategy. It is important to note that the method of the disposal has not yet been determined.

The general scrutiny committee has identified this decision from the council’s Forward Plan and has added this to their work programme as pre-decision call-in.

There are a range of services accessed by members of the public that are currently operating from the Town Hall. Namely, the county Coroners, registrars, storage, car parking enforcement, Custodians services and IT data room. The Town Hall also hosts two external local tenants, notably, Hereford City Council and the Business Improvement District (BID)

Recommendation(s)
That:

a) The Committee reviews the proposals for the disposal of the Town Hall and determines any recommendations it wishes to make to the executive, which may enhance the effectiveness of the plans.

Alternative options
1. There are no alternative options, this is a report for scrutiny to consider the council’s proposed decision within the context of a wider overall asset management strategy.

Key considerations
2. The Town Hall, in St. Owens St, in Hereford is one of the County’s most iconic public buildings. The Edwardian building was opened in 1904 and houses the town's civic
administration, including council chambers and the registrar's office. The property is a grade II* listed building in a prominent position in the city of Hereford.

3. The now expired Herefordshire Council’s Corporate Property Strategy, 2016 to 2020 notes that the Town Hall, along with other significant public buildings such as the Shire Hall will be retained for public sector occupation and use. A new Strategic Asset Management Plan is being developed to take forward a new way of managing our assets for the future and current conditions.

4. On 5 July, the Council published a statutory notice that it would be taking a key decision to dispose of the Town Hall, in St. Owens Street.

5. The council currently operates a number of services in the buildings, namely the Coroner, Registrars, Parking Services and Electoral Services. The council also delivers a range of other functions including weddings, inquests and citizens ceremonies. It is proposed that plans are developed and implemented to relocate these services within the council’s property portfolio. The building also plays host to two external tenants, Hereford City Council and Hereford Business Improvement District (BID).

6. Many of these statutory services will continue to require having physical buildings within the county to continue to deliver their services for the residents of Herefordshire.

7. The City Council approached the Council with regards the future management of the asset. Further to discussions with the City Council regarding a potential interest in
taking over the management of the Town Hall building, the Council commissioned a survey in 2019 to understand the condition at that time and take a view on backlog maintenance and estimated cost. The survey identified that a total of £1.8m maintenance or repairs were potentially required.

8. Previously, maintenance works to the front elevation of the Town Hall were identified and incorporated in the capital bids for the year 2017/18. The front porch had settled by approximately 50mm and was required to be supported by scaffold to keep the front entrance open and safe.

9. A sum of £421k for stonework repairs at the town hall was approved by full council as part of the capital programme in December 2016.

Current Finances Associated with the current running costs and income generated

10. The running costs of the Town Hall, based upon 2019-20, as 2020-21 figures are unreliable due to Covid 19 as a true reflection of usual expense, are as follows:.
a. Building & Maintenance – £47,778.96
b. Cleaning - £49,398.43
c. Rates - £66,765
d. Utilities - £30,000
TOTAL: £193,491.00

11. The Income generated from the Town Hall (2020-21) show the following
e. Rental income- £25,809
f. Services Charges - £11,864
g. Other income - £190 (in 2019/20 this income was approximately £6k)
h. Income generated from other sources, namely car parking fees (2019-20), was £8,465
TOTAL: £28,738.00

Community impact
12. The current proposals support the Council’s County Plan (2020 to 2024) to further rationalise our property holdings to deliver efficiencies as well as new income streams to support our services.

Environmental Impact
13. The council provides and purchases a wide range of services for the people of Herefordshire. Together with partner organisations in the private, public and voluntary sectors we share a strong commitment to improving our environmental sustainability, achieving carbon neutrality and to protect and enhance Herefordshire’s outstanding natural environment

Equality duty
14. Under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, the ‘general duty’ on public authorities is set out as follows:

A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to –
a) eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act;
b) advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it;
c) foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.

15. The public sector equality duty (specific duty) requires that the council consider how we can positively contribute to the advancement of equality and good relations, and
demonstrate that we are paying ‘due regard’ in our decision making in the design of policies and in the delivery of services. Our providers will be made aware of their contractual requirements in regards to equality legislation.

Resource implications
16. There are no resource implications from this committee reviewing the responses. The resource implications are set out within the reports.

Legal implications
17. There are no direct legal implications arising from the recommendations.

Risk management
18. These are set out in the appended reports

Consultees
None

Appendices
Appendix A: Town Hall Data – General Scrutiny Committee

Background papers
Herefordshire Council – Corporate Property Strategy 2016 – 2020 

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