Councillors clash in Stanhope Hall dust-up

Stanhope Hall EMN-191208-064405001
Stanhope Hall EMN-191208-064405001

A row has erupted among Horncastle councillors over the current state and future of Stanhope Hall.

The hall – one of the town’s best known buildings and used by a number of organisations – is run by trustees and is on a lease from East Lindsey District Council.

However, it is on a list of assets to be transferred from ELDC to the town council later this year.

Now, town councillors Alan Lockwood and Richard Barker have questioned the financial viability and condition of the hall – and the absence of a business plan.

They also claim the hall is too reliant on Brian Burbidge, chairman of the trustees, and a fellow town councillor.

Speaking at last Tuesday’s town council meeting, Coun Lockwood said the hall should be ‘an enormous asset’ for Horncastle but was in danger of becoming a ‘major financial drain.’

Coun Lockwood added it was important the town council had up-to-date information – including structural reports and a business plan – before taking responsibility for the hall.

He said: “Without more information, we could end up with something that is a major financial drain on this council – and the town in general.”

Coun Lockwood admitted he was basing his comments on what he termed information and minutes from trustee meetings,.

He admitted he had not attended the most recent meeting.

His comments were supported by Coun Barker who had attended that trustees meeting.

Coun Barker said he was ‘appalled’ at the lack of information and claimed details of items like monthly income and maintenance were not available.

He added the running of the hall was a ‘one-man band’ and called on three other trustees to ‘stand up’ and take some responsibility from Coun Burbidge.

However, town and county councillor Bill Aron – who chaired the trustees for eight years before Coun Burbidge – hit back at Coun Lockwood and Coun Barker.

He added: “I am appalled they have said what they have. They say they need information but have come out with these damning statements based on what?”

Coun Aron said the hall was ‘well managed’ during his tenure when the bank balance had come from ‘nothing to £27,000’.

He said he had ‘only’ stepped down because of ill health and stressed he was more than happy to support Coun Burbidge.

Town mayor Fiona Martin said it was ‘not the time’ for a full debate and urged the meeting to move on.

There was widespread praise for Coun Burbidge who stressed he was in the process of ‘sorting out’ several issues, including maintenance which he admitted ‘ was not where it should be.’.

He said the bank balance was around £23,000 and bookings for the hall ran into 2021 and 2022.

He stressed the hall had a ‘very viable future’ but added: “We do need more people – people who are prepared to put their efforts into looking after and working for the hall – and not just sitting at a desk and walking away.

“I can’t do it all myself.”

•Anyone interested in helping, or becoming a trustee, is asked to contact the town council for details.