Councillor claims Piece Hall funding decision 'might have been different' if they had known about council's £5.5m deficit
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Calderdale scrutiny councillors have been debating the projected £5.5 million overspend in 2023-24, if action is not taken to reduce it.
Council finance chiefs outlined measures which were being taken and issues, including inflation, which were impacting on budgets.
In July, councillors voted a two-year funding package to help support The Piece Hall Trust to run the historic venue.
The amount pledged has not been revealed although senior councillors have said it will appear in The Piece Hall’s accounts.
Chair of Calderdale Council’s strategy and performance scrutiny board, Coun George Robinson, said councillors only found out about the projected council budget deficit two days after voting on The Piece Hall funding.
“As councillors we voted on giving The Piece Hall money, that is public knowledge, on July 25,” he said.
“Two days later, the cabinet agenda was published in which we found out there was a projected overspend of £5 million.
“Had that information been given to councillors at the time of the vote, I think councillors would have been thinking about things a little bit differently or indeed we might have been weighing up the decision a bit more heavily in terms of the financial position of the council.”
Coun Robinson (Con, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) went on: “Should this information have been available to councillors before making that decision? I am guessing that cabinet knew about the projected overspend of £5 million?”
The council’s interim finance director Isabel Brittain said the council had made a commitment to The Piece Hall on a two-year basis but not the longer-term that had been requested by The Piece Hall.
In its annual report for 2021-22, The Piece Hall reported its most successful year since re-opening, with 90 per cent of its income now coming from the building’s own activities.
Of £4.6 million of income, Calderdale Council provided ten per cent that year, described by trust chairman Roger Marsh as a “significant” shift from 2018 when almost half of its £1.6 million income was from council funding.
In order to stay free to enter The Piece Hall has said it is always likely to require some public subsidy.