Hire charge plan scrapped

A POTENTIAL increase to Morpeth Town Hall’s hire charge has been scrapped.

The town council’s Property and Asset Management Committee discussed the issue last month as it has taken on the extra cost of a new building attendant, who helps to evacuate people in the event of an emergency when other staff are not in the hall and acts as a security presence.

It recommended a £5 hourly rise for six months at evenings and weekends so that a decision could be made one way or another at a recent meeting of the authority’s Finance and General Purposes Committee.

But members opted not to implement the suggestion and instead the attendant’s wage will be absorbed entirely from its budget.

Coun Ken Brown said: “We had to decide how to fund this extra cost and putting up the hire charge was an option we looked at, but in the end we decided to fully cover it ourselves for the time being.

“There were two reasons for this. One was that we felt it was unfair to charge more at evenings and weekends because the level of customer service is the same during the day as at those times.

“Also, we do an annual review of charges for all our venues and we didn’t want to increase them midway through the current 12-month period.

“The next review will take place later in 2012, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that prices will rise once it has been carried out.

“The decision will depend on the running costs and level of bookings.”

Any changes for the Town Hall and the two community centres, Storey Park and St James’s, will take effect from October and April 2013 respectively.

The part-time attendant was employed following a recommendation by a fire safety officer, who told the council that it needed to have a responsible person in place at all times when the building is open, although Coun Brown said it was also about providing good customer care.