Hundreds join in rent rise storm

PUBLISHED: 10:43 16 January 2008 | UPDATED: 21:10 26 October 2009

Young and old protesters outside the civic centre

Young and old protesters outside the civic centre

A CONTROVERSIAL debate over the future of a village hall began with over 300 residents attending a public meeting. Villagers packed into the Welwyn Civic Centre, the venue at the centre of the debate, to pose questions to representatives of two feuding co

A CONTROVERSIAL debate over the future of a village hall began with over 300 residents attending a public meeting.

Villagers packed into the Welwyn Civic Centre, the venue at the centre of the debate, to pose questions to representatives of two feuding councils.

Last Thursday, members of the public joined the dispute over plans to hugely hike up the rent that Welwyn Hatfield Council plans to charge Welwyn Parish Council for the hall.

Parish council chairman John Roper opened the meeting with a speech outlining its stance on the issue.

He said: "The parish council has got to a point where it would be unwise for us to go further without consulting and seeking your views."

Concerns were expressed over initial thoughts that villagers would be expected to pay extra council tax to subsidise the cost of the hall.

However, Bob Jewell, Welwyn Hatfield Council's chief resources manager, reiterated sentiments expressed in last week's WHT insisting villagers' council tax will not be increased.

"The only way the public's tax will be affected is that the parish precept goes up and the borough precept goes down," he said

"This has no effect on the council tax level and would not affect services at all."

Questions were asked about the organisations that use the hall and whether they would be priced out of using it if the lease is extended with increased rent.

Parish councillor Ian Skidmore, head of finance, claimed the hall should be preserved for "future generations".

He said: "The more you increase your hiring costs the less hirers you get.

"We have entered into negotiations with the borough council in good faith. We have put to them our feelings and state that it is unfair, unreasonable and not in our view best value."

The meeting concluded with a unanimous show of hands for the two councils to continue negotiations and refer back to the public.

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