Mid Suffolk: Concern over Wingfield Barns’ arts bill

Wingfield Barns, near Stradbroke

Wingfield Barns, near Stradbroke

A COUNCILLOR has criticised her local authority for pouring hundreds of thousands of pounds into an arts centre at a time when they are “strapped for cash”.

Wendy Marchant, a councillor for Needham Market, criticised Mid Suffolk District Council for spending the money on Wingfield Barns, based near Stradbroke.

The council bought the venue in 2009 for £1 with a view to establish a not-for-profit organisation.

But over the past four years the EADT can reveal more than £430,000 has been spent on the centre.

Mrs Marchant said: “I’m very much in favour of the arts – my late husband was an art teacher – but I feel that Wingfield Barns is right out in the sticks, there’s so little population out there.

“They’ve had some wonderful projects there, it’s a wonderful place but it is not financially viable. It’s money down a black hole, it’s losing money all the time.

“The council made it a community interest company and I thought it would be the end of it but apparently not. It’s a lot of money Mid Suffolk is spending at a time when the council is strapped for cash.”

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Between 2009-10 the council spent almost £130,000 on the centre’s refurbishment.

A council team then ran the site and spent more than £240,000 before a community interest company took over the lease in 2011.

Since the company took over the council has seen a significant reduction to its spending.

A spokeswoman for Mid Suffolk said the council had received an income of more than £150,000 from the barns.

She said: “As the landlord for the site, Mid Suffolk is required to maintain the site under the terms of this lease and, to this end, we have a modest budget for repairs and renewals of the site.”

A spokesman for Wingfield Barns Community Interest Company said: “The board remains committed to ensuring the survival of the facility as a community hub with the goodwill and support of a small group of committed and dedicated volunteers.”

He added the barns had won a Government grant to support unemployed people gain new skills and they were also in the process of applying for financial support.

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