At a public meeting on 8th December Sheffield City Council announced plans to take ownership of all buildings owned by Burngreave New Deal for Communities – the Vestry Hall, Sorby House and Forum House.
Only around 10 local residents attended, alongside community representatives of the New Deal Board. Council Officers explained the proposal to transfer ownership, which will be presented for approval at the Council’s Cabinet meeting on 22nd December.
New Deal is currently at risk of insolvency because their buildings, Sorby House, Vestry Hall and Forum House, are running at a loss. Asset Manager Jeremy Diskin explained the organisation’s annual costs were approximately £270,000, but their income was only £150,000. The Council has to prevent New Deal becoming insolvent or they may have to pay up to £10million back to the government.
The Council’s Jo Horobin and Richard Web, Executive Director of Communities, explained that the Council is the “Accountable body” for New Deal so is facing liabilities of £11million . Around £1million of this is as guarantor of their pensions and £10 million relates to investment in buildings on Spital Hill.
The Council have been told by the government, who awarded the New Deal grant of £52million to Burngreave, that they must keep Sorby House and Vestry Hall in use, even if they are running at a loss. If they are not used for the benefit of the Burngreave area, as agreed, the Council may have to pay back the money invested in them.
Forum House, however, will be sold as soon as possible. the Council agrees with New Deal that it is ‘surplus to requirement’. Unlike Sorby House and Vestry Hall, they are not constrained by the government because no funding was used to refurbish the property while New Deal owned it. Any money from this sale will be sent back to the government as all of the New Deal investment has to be spent by 31st March 2011. A quick sale is not expected.
The Council said they were committed to working with local residents in the running of the buildings. This is likely to be a condition set by the government.
Residents present were concerned that the Lib Dems, who currently run the City Council, would use the situation against Burngreave. The issue has already become a political football in the citywide press, with both main parties denying responsibility and blaming the other. Negative articles in the Star have focused on how the city’s tax payers will have to pay for New Deal’s ‘mistakes’. This is despite £11 million of New Deal’s £52 million going on Council services.
Residents and Board members agreed to attend the Cabinet meeting at 2pm on 22nd December at the Town Hall to voice their concerns. Residents are meeting at the Town Hall at 1.15pm.