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Port gets town hall back after 40 years

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 04, 2012

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Keys have been handed over in a controversial transfer of a fishing port's town hall.

Torbay Council has now officially relinquished responsibility for Brixham Town Hall to the town council, and claims the community will have more say on how it is run.

But Brixham residents Michael and Sue Furminger have raised concerns over two issues relating to the transfer.

First, they say the vote which permitted it was invalid, because four town councillors who swayed the majority did not declare that they also sit on Torbay Council. The Furmingers have appealed against a finding by Torbay's standards committee that there was no wrongdoing, and the councillors remain under investigation.

The couple also question the cost of running the hall, claiming that a surveyors' report put the figure at £30,000 per year, but the consultation with the town cited £6,000. Mr Furminger said: "The town council has never acknowledged what their own surveyors told them. Now it is too late, the town council and Brixham's taxpayers will be left to foot the bill."

But Brixham town councillor Martyn Hodge, who was chairman at the time of the vote, believes the town hall will pay for itself, as interest from tenants has been high. "It won't happen overnight, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "I don't believe there will be any extra cost to the taxpayer."

The town centre building is home to several organisations including Brixham Does Care, the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Brixham Arts and Theatre Society.

Torbay Mayor Gordon Oliver said the community could run the building more efficiently. "I am confident that the town council will work hard to make sure that the building retains its role as an important and valued asset for the Brixham community."

Councillor Brian Harland, current chairman of Brixham Town Council, said it was more than 40 years since Brixham had owned its town hall, and called the transfer a "significant and exciting moment of history".

He said: "Although the decision to acquire the building was not without controversy, it was democratically taken and we as councillors will now endeavour to ensure that our management of the Town Hall is a success."

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