Revealed: How Hadleigh’s Guildhall is losing thousands of pounds a year
- Credit: Archant
It is one of Suffolk’s finest medieval buildings and has survived civil wars, a fire and revolutions.
But the charity charged with its upkeep is losing thousands of pounds a year, meaning the Hadleigh Guildhall needs to find new ways of making money.
The Guildhall is in the care of a charity called the Market Feoffment Charity whose trustee is Hadleigh Town Council.
But as it is losing thousands a year, the council, through taxpayers, is having to pay to keep it going.
Accounts on the charity commission website show the Feoffment Charity lost almost £12,000 in 2016 - the last year financial statements are available for.
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Since 2011 it has lost almost £20,000 and accounts seen by this newspaper show the charity’s bank balance fell from £37,500 in 2011 to £16,300 by December 2016.
The town council said this year’s financial accounts had not yet been finalised, but they were aware of the Guildhall’s financial problems and were doing all they could to turn things around.
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Councillor Sue Angland said the council had tried to get charitable funding from outside organisations but could not because the trustee of the charity is the council, rather than individually named officers.
“We put a lot of time and effort into it,” Cllr Angland said. “We are all volunteers.”
They said one solution would be resurrecting a Friends of Hadleigh Guildhall group and applying for grants.
Councillor Penny Cook said: “We have been stepping up our events; we held a large craft fair and photo exhibition.” The building is also hired for weddings.
The council’s accounts shows that it is using taxpayers’ money to pay many expenses for the Guildhall, where it has its own offices, including repairs, gas and electricity.
It adds up to around £18,000 being spent by the town council in 2016/17 on the Guildhall.
Council clerk Carol Bailey said the amount the council puts into the historic buildings works out at about 15p per week per household in the town.
Councillor Trevor Sheldrick said: “People ask if the town council should put money into it. This is part of the historic fabric of the town. I believe the town council has an obligation to make sure this building survives.” He added: “We appreciate there is a problem with money. It is not like we have been sitting back saying we can use the reserves. There is ongoing appreciation that something has to be done.”
The Guildhall has been run by the citizens of Hadleigh ever since it was built in the 1400s.
Additions have been made to it over the years and it has been used as a work house, police station and town hall in its long history.
But by the late 1980s it had fallen into disrepair.
Long-serving councillors Jan Byrne and Jane Haylock remember it being in a poor state and it had to be closed as it was no longer safe for the public. Then in 1988 the Charity Commission agreed the town council could become the trustee of the building and it took over the refurbishment using Public Works loans and a grant from Babergh Council.
The building was then refurbished from 1987 to 1993.
The challenge it faces today is how to open it up to the public to raise more revenue, while also keeping it as town council offices.
Ms Byrne, who gives tours of the buildings, said: “This is a working building not a museum.”
The age of the building also makes it difficult to open up to wheelchair users.