THE future of Hugh Ripley Hall as a community venue in Ripon has been cast into doubt after Harrogate Borough Council said it was considering selling the building.
It is just one of a number of options the cash-strapped local authority is considering for the facility on Skellgate as it copes with a £2.7m cut in funding from central Government over the current and next financial year.
Coun Anthony Alton, cabinet member for resources, said: “We don’t want to see the building closed but we have to all understand that we are living in very difficult financial times.”
Fears for the future of Hugh Ripley Hall were first raised when it appeared on a list of assets owned by Harrogate Borough Council as the local authority prepared for an eventual £1.7m cut in Government funding for the 2011/12 financial year, with proposals published in January to make the venue unavailable for mid-year bookings to reduce losses.
In setting this year’s spending plans, the council agreed a target to reduce net expenditure at Hugh Ripley Hall by £8,800 during 2011/12 and the same amount again in 2012/13 – a total of £17,600 over two years.
To date, no decisions have been made with regard to how this will be achieved but, as well as the option of selling the building, the council has also confirmed it is considering transferring responsibility for the running of the community venue to an outside organisation.
The borough council is now welcoming suggestions and comments on how the savings target could be met to safeguard Hugh Ripley Hall for public use.
Coun Alton said: “We hope to hear from all organisations, groups and bodies who wish to see Hugh Ripley Hall make those savings so that we can secure its future.
“Before any decisions are taken, the council will identify and review all the options that come forward.”
Comments or suggestions on the proposals should be sent in writing to Nigel Thompson at the Department of Development Services, Harrogate Borough Council, Knapping Mount, West Grove Road, Harrogate, HG1 2AE or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Any correspondence should arrive with the council no later than October 24.
• Would the sale of Hugh Ripley Hall be a sensible option given the financial hardship facing Harrogate Borough Council? Or should the local authority be making savings elsewhere to protect a much-needed community venue?
Send your views to The Editor at Ripon Gazette, 5A Kirkgate, Ripon, HG4 1PA, or email email@example.com