£2.7million revamp of Chesterfield Town Hall to be completed by autumn

Chesterfield Town Hall opened in April 1938.
Chesterfield Town Hall opened in April 1938.

A multi-million pound refurbishment of Chesterfield Town Hall is expected to be completed by this autumn.

The £2.7million revamp of the home of Chesterfield Borough Council started last year.

The refurbishment is aimed at preserving the building for future generations and providing the council with an opportunity to rent out space to other organisations, raising much-needed cash.

Councillor Ken Huckle, the council's cabinet member for business transformation, said: "In 2018-19, the amount of Government funding we receive will have reduced by £6m as compared with the funding we received in 2010-11. And by 2020-21, we expect to receive no Government funding at all.

"The town hall is an iconic building that Chesterfield Borough Council is proud to call home. The investment we are currently making is on the one hand about preserving the building's heritage status for future generations while at the same time creating a modern, fit-for-purpose work environment for councillors and staff.

"But it also provides the council with an ability to generate new income through renting out space to other organisations. We have being doing this with a number of voluntary sector organisations since 2014 and Derbyshire County Council's register office will be based in the town hall from later this year.

"In time, we would expect this new income stream to generate some £240,000 each year. This will help the council move to a self-financing position beyond 2020-21 and ensure we are able to continue to provide essential services for our residents."

Council tax set to rise

At a meeting today, cabinet members agreed an increase in council tax and £200,000 of savings over the next year.

A final vote will take place during a meeting of the full council on Thursday night.

The proposed council tax increase will see bills for those in a band A property rise from £103.26 to £106.59 a year. Most residents in Chesterfield are in a band A property.

Properties in band D will see charges rise from £154.89 to £159.89.

Councillor Tricia Gilby, leader of told the Derbyshire Times: "Councillors will be asked to consider approving an increase of 6p a week for a band A property which means the majority of council taxpayers in Chesterfield will receive the wide range of services we provide for £2.05 a week.

"While we do not wish to increase council tax we have been left in this position because the Government has again failed to put in place a sustainable and reasonable way to fund the local Government services that we all rely on each day.

"In recent weeks the Conservative-run Northamptonshire County Council has had to ban all spending as it has effectively run out of money and other councils are likely to follow in the next year. That shows the scale of the funding crisis the Government has left local Government with, including their own Conservative-run councils.

"Through careful financial management, Chesterfield Borough Council is not in that position but the grant we receive from the Government next year will be £6m lower than it was in 2010, which is a cut of 59.5 per cent.

"That means that we continue to have to find savings and generate additional income to fill that void and in the next financial year we need to find another £200,000 savings."

Possible new fees

The council has announced it may look at introducing new fees and charges to raise money amid ongoing financial challenges and warned it 'may no longer be able to continue to provide the breadth and quality of discretionary services that it currently offers'.

A report for councillors states: "The medium term forecast shows that the council continues to face financial challenges in the years ahead and all the indications are that this is likely to continue over the longer term, through to and beyond 2022.

"The council has a very good track record of delivering budget savings and income growth but the task is becoming increasingly difficult and, while every effort will be made to avoid such a situation, the council may no longer be able to continue to provide the breadth and quality of discretionary services that it currently offers.

"Further growth in income will be important from our 'trading activities' i.e. venues, leisure, car parking, planning, industrial and commercial assets etc. We could also look at introducing new fees and charges to raise income.

"Although the council has a track record of delivering savings, the challenge of implementing savings on this scale and within tight timescales should not be underestimated.

"The council does have reserves which could be used to bridge a short term deficit but, given that the deficit forecasts are increasing year-on-year from 2019-20 and the fact that reserves are declining and can only be used once, the aim must be to make the required savings and/or generate new income within the financial year.

"Based on the current savings planned forecasts, the council should be able to deliver a balanced budget in 2018-19."

Government responds

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: "Our finance settlement strikes a balance between relieving growing pressure on local Government while ensuring that hard-pressed taxpayers do not face excessive bills.

"We have listened to representations made from councils and delivered on these with extra funding.

"Overall councils will see a real-term increase in resources over the next two years, more freedom and fairness and with a greater certainty to plan and secure value for money.

"We are also delivering on our commitment to give councils more control over the business rates they raise locally - with millions of pounds staying in communities and being spent on local priorities.

"We want to work with local Government to develop a new funding system for the future and encourage councils to submit responses to the review currently under way."

Where does your council tax go?

Chesterfield Borough Council receives only 10 per cent of council tax paid by residents.

Derbyshire County Council receives 74 per cent, Derbyshire Constabulary gets 11 per cent and Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service receives five per cent.

Residents in Staveley and Brimington also pay for services provided by their town and parish councils.