Steep increase in hall charges opposed by town councillors

ANGRY St Neots town councillors have stood their ground, opposing steep increases for the hire of a popular community building. Priory Centre staff approached the town council last Wednesday (December 3) intending to increase the hall charges next year

ANGRY St Neots town councillors have stood their ground, opposing steep increases for the hire of a popular community building.

Priory Centre staff approached the town council last Wednesday (December 3) intending to increase the hall charges next year by five per cent.

Addressing councillors, centre manager John Giddings said: "We have checked our prices with competitors and we are cheaper than most. We offer competitive prices and would therefore recommend an increase in hall charges by five per cent."

However, Mr Giddings was stopped in his tracks by unhappy town councillors who believed such a high increase would drive community groups out of the hall.


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Cllr Barry Chapman said: "We are now in a deflationary period so if we increase our prices by five per cent people will go elsewhere. We also have to be aware that putting prices up during a credit crunch when we are likely to see a decrease in bookings is not a good idea."

As a result of the economic slump, Cllr Derek Giles recommended a smaller increase. He said: "I believe that in this economic climate a five per cent increase is too steep. I would recommend a three and a half per cent increase and nothing above that."

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Other councillors warned against any increases pointing out that the town council subsidises the centre as well as some of the groups who hire the hall. They said increase in charges would impact on the council's finances.

Cllr Paul Ursell added: "Community groups like the St Neots Players use the hall and we subsidise them so if we put up prices the extra money will just be going from our pocket, to theirs and then back to ours."

Cllr Gordon Thorpe said: "We have to get this right or we will have to increase the percept to cover the shortfall. But we need more information before we can make a decision."

The town council agreed to defer a decision on the hall charges until Mr Giddings had put together a business plan.

In the meantime the 2008 prices will remain in place.

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