Cabinet Sub-Committee (Hitchin Town Hall Trust) Minutes

Date:
Monday, 17th May, 2010
Time:
6.00pm
Place:
Council Chamber, Council Offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City
 
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor Bernard Lovewell (Chairman), Councillor I.J. Knighton and Councillor Mrs C.P.A. Strong.
In attendance:
Strategic Director of Customer Services, Head of Revenues and Benefits, Head of Community and Cultural Services, Legal Advisor, Accountancy Manager and Committee & Member Services Manager.
Also Present:
5 members of the public.
Item Description/Decision
PART I
8 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
There were no apologies for absence.
9 MINUTES
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the meeting of the Sub-Committee held on 18 November 2009 be taken as read, approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.
10 NOTIFICATION OF OTHER BUSINESS
There was no notification of other business.
11 CHAIRMAN'S ANNOUNCEMENTS
The Chairman reminded Members that, in line with the Code of Conduct, any Declarations of Interest needed to be declared immediately prior to the item in question.
12 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
The Cabinet Sub-Committee was addressed by the following residents:

(i) Mr Paul Summers ¡V Hitchin resident ¡V re: Future Plans for Hitchin Town Hall

Mr Summers commented that he was of the view that the options considered by the Council and the Hitchin Initiative in respect of the conversion of Hitchin Town Hall into a museum and community facility were flawed in many respects. The proposals, if agreed, would provide less space for the existing community users of the Town Hall, many of whom believed that the building should be retained solely for community use.

Mr Summers offered an alternative venue for a museum in Hitchin, namely Centenary House on the corner of Grammar School Walk and Bedford Road. He considered that this would be a perfect building for a joint venture, comprising the museum, the library, facilities for the Hitchin Initiative, a visitor centre, a café and possibly even a retail outlet. He considered that Centenary House would require minimal refurbishment, and was suitable in terms of its well lit rooms, with large windows and high ceilings, and contained a sufficient amount of car parking space. It also had appropriate access for the disabled.

Mr Summers hoped that the Centenary House option could be investigated, with the possibility of private finance being used to supplement any funds provided by the Council, and without the overall costs exceeding the schemes for conversion of the Town Hall.

The Chairman thanked Mr Summers for his presentation.

(ii) Mr Colin Dunham ¡V Hitchin resident ¡V re: Disabled parking at Hitchin Town Hall

Mr Dunham asked the Sub-Committee how many disabled car parking spaces would be allocated for staff and the public should Hitchin Town Hall be converted into a museum and community facility. He considered that disabled staff or customers should not be expected to park in public car parks, especially in inclement weather. He stated that he had written to the Strategic Director of Customer Services regarding this matter, but had received no information in response to his letter. If at some time the trustees wished to sell the building, then any town centre site with disabled parking would be of greater value. Mr Dunham realised that plans for future use of the Town Hall were not yet finalised, but he believed that the issue needed addressing immediately, in order to avoid the potential for future criticism from the public.

The Chairman thanked Mr Dunham for his presentation.
13 STATEMENT OF ACCOUNTS AND MANAGEMENT ARRANGEMENTS
The Head of Revenues and Benefits and Accountancy Manager presented a report and addendum report in respect of the Trust¡¦s Statement of Accounts for 2009/10 and Management Arrangements. The following appendices were submitted with the reports:

Appendix 1 ¡V Statement of Accounts 2009/10;
Appendix 2 ¡V Annual Report 2009/10;
Appendix 3 ¡V Proposed Management Agreement;
Appendix 4 ¡V Charity Commission¡¦s general guidance on public benefit.

The Head of Revenues and Benefits referred to a series of proposed amendments to a number of the recommendations in the reports, which were noted by the Sub-Committee.

The Accountancy Manager presented the Statement of Accounts and Annual Report. He tabled a document which detailed the overhead costs and other resources expended relating to Hitchin Town Hall, broken down to show the amount of these apportioned to the Trust.

The Sub-Committee approved the Statement of Accounts 2009/10 and agreed that, in order to re-inforce the demarcation between the Trust and the Council, the accounts should be examined by an independent auditor other than Grant Thornton, the Council¡¦s appointed auditor.

In respect of the Annual Report 2009/10, the Sub-Committee agreed that this should be approved, subject to wording of objectives of the Trust set out in Section C of the Report matching the wording in the Management Agreement. The Sub-Committee was satisfied that the requirement for the Trust to meet the Public Benefit test set out by the Charity Commission, as detailed in Appendix 4 to the addendum report, had been met.

The Sub-Committee supported the proposed amendments to the Management Agreement, including a further revision to the clause in respect of use of the income generated by the hire of both the Trust and non-Trust elements of the Town Hall, and that such income should be calculated on an annual basis.

RESOLVED:

(1) That the points raised in the addendum report in respect of the Statement of Accounts for 2009/10, be noted;

(2) That the Statement of Accounts for 2009/10, as attached at Appendix 1 to the addendum report, be approved;

(3) That an independent examination of the Statement of Accounts for 2009/10 be undertaken by an independent auditor, to be appointed by Officers, in consultation with the Chairman of the Sub-Committee;

(4) That, following the completion of the independent examination referred to in (3) above, the Chairman of the Sub-Committee be authorised to approve the Statement of Accounts for 2009/10;

(5) That, subject to the wording of objectives of the Trust set out in Section C matching the wording in the Management Agreement, the Annual Report for 2009/10, attached at Appendix 2 to the addendum report, be approved;

(6) That the Sub-Committee is satisfied that the requirements to meet the Public Benefit test set out by the Charity Commission, as detailed in Appendix 4 to the addendum report, has been met;

(7) That the points raised in the addendum report on the financial risks and implications of the proposed Management Agreement be noted;

(8) That the proposed Management Agreement, as set out at Appendix 3 to the report, be approved, with the following changes:

(a) That, subject to the views of the Charity Commission, the objectives of the Trust in Section 1 be rewritten as:

¡§to use, or permit the use, for community purposes for the benefit of the inhabitants of the District of North Hertfordshire and (so far as the Trustees can lawfully declare) for any other purpose for the benefit of the inhabitants of the District for which the Council under their statutory powers is entitled to use buildings and land vested in them. The objective as set out does not preclude the use or hire of the premises from inhabitants who reside outside of the District of North Hertfordshire.¡¨;

(b) That the following bullet point in Section 2.1 of the Management Agreement be deleted:

„« No requirements for any financial arrangements or reconciliations, other than the payment of a peppercorn rent shall exist between the ¡¥Hitchin Town Hall Gymnasium Trust¡¦ and North Hertfordshire District Council;

(c) That the following bullet point in Section 2.1 of the Management Agreement be deleted:

„« All income generated by the hire of the combined facilities shall belong to North Hertfordshire District Council;

and be replaced with:

„« To be calculated on an annual basis, all income generated from the non-Trust elements of the facilities shall belong to North Hertfordshire District Council;
„« To be calculated on an annual basis, income generated from the Workman¡¦s Hall and Gymnasium Trust facilities, up to but not exceeding the cost of managing and maintaining the said facilities, shall belong to North Hertfordshire District Council;
„« To be calculated on an annual basis, income generated from the Workman¡¦s Hall and Gymnasium Trust facilities, in excess of the cost of managing and maintaining the said facilities, shall belong to the Workman¡¦s Hall and Gymnasium Trust;

(d) That the following clause be inserted into Section 5:

¡§the Trust property should be used only for purposes which support the objectives of the Trust and meet the Public Benefit test set out in the Charity Commission¡¦s general guidance on public benefit¡¨;

(9) That Officers, in consultation with the Chairman of the Sub-Committee, be authorised to agree any final amendments to the Management Agreement.

REASON FOR DECISION: To comply with requirements for registration of the Trust with the Charity Commission.
14 DEED OF TRUST AND GOVERNANCE ARRANGEMENTS
The Legal Advisor presented a report in respect of a Deed of Trust and governance arrangements in respect of the Trust. The following appendices were submitted with the report:

Appendix A ¡V Proposed boundary of Trust premises;
Appendix B ¡V Current boundary of Trust premises;

In respect of the boundary between the Trust and non-Trust parts of Hitchin Town Hall, the Legal Advisor reported that the Cabinet resolution of 15 December 2009 was subject to the agreement of a lease between the Council and the Trust for the Trust premises. He advised, however, that this was not possible, as legally the Council could not grant a lease to itself.

The Legal Advisor stated that the solution proposed was that the boundary amendment be regulated by way of a Deed of Variation to the terms of the original Trust. The Deed of Variation would include the plan set out at Appendix A to the report, and would confirm the extent of the Trust¡¦s property interests, thereby protecting the Trust. The Council¡¦s interest would be protected by the Management Agreement referred to in Item 6 (see Minute 13 above) which gave the ability to manage the entire building in a co-ordinated way.

The Legal Advisor commented that, if the Sub-Committee agreed to this approach, once agreement had been reached on the form of the Deed of Variation and Management Agreement, an application would be made to the Land Registry to amend the title to clarify which part of the Hitchin Town Hall buildings were subject to the Trust. Authority was sought for Officers to agree the final wording of the Deed of Variation in order to be able to expedite the application. After the Trust¡¦s property interest was clarified with the Land Registry, an application would be made to the Charity Commission to register the Trust.

In relation to the quorum of the Sub-Committee, particularly in the case when meetings may be required at short notice, Members were not in favour of a suggestion that the quorum be reduced from all 3 Members to 2 Members. However, it was agreed that Officers explore the practicalities of remote access for Members to Sub-Committee meetings in the event that it was not possible for all 3 Members of the Sub-Committee to attend a meeting and an alternative date was inappropriate.

RESOLVED:

(1) That the amendment of the boundary of the property subject to the Trust, as shown on the plan at Appendix A to the report, and subject to agreeing the terms of the Management Agreement with the Council, be approved;

(2) That Officers be authorised to agree the form of the Deed of Variation;

(3) That Officers be authorised to apply to the Land Registry to formalise the boundary change;

(4) That Officers explore the practicalities of remote access for Members to Sub-Committee meetings in the event that it is not possible for all 3 Members of the Sub-Committee to attend a meeting and an alternative date is inappropriate.

REASON FOR DECISION: To comply with requirements for registration of the Trust with the Charity Commission and the amendment of the boundary with the Land Registry; and To allow the Sub-Committee to be more flexible in order to respond to any issues that require quick decisions.
15 PRESENTATION BY NHDC ON POTENTIAL FUTURE USE OF HITCHIN TOWN HALL
The Head of Community and Cultural Services gave a short presentation on the potential future use of Hitchin Town Hall.

The Head of Community and Cultural Services tabled an Information Note which had appeared in a recent edition of the Members¡¦ Information Service. This provided details of:

• The Hitchin Initiative proposal;
• The Existing NHDC Conversion proposal;
• The Application for Listing (the outcome of which should be known by the end of June 2010/early July 2010, and which could impact on either scheme);
• The Outline Project Plan; and
• Consultation Arrangements.

With regard to the Hitchin Initiative proposal, it was noted that officers were working with the Initiative to ensure that the interests of the Trust would be achieved should this scheme be the one that was eventually selected.

RESOLVED: That the presentation of the Head of Community and Cultural Services regarding the potential future use of Hitchin Town Hall be noted.

REASON FOR DECISION: To keep Members informed of developments in relation to the future use of Hitchin Town Hall, in order to give the Sub-Committee an opportunity to consider the implications for the Trust and highlight any potential concerns in meeting the Trust¡¦s objectives.
Published on Friday, 11th June, 2010
Start - 6.00pm
End - 7.40pm