51 days to go and counting!

If you like your communications to be brief and to the point, and have no plans to read everything that follows, “we’re getting there, slowly but surely” might best characterise where we find ourselves now as a Working Group!

The reference to 51 days is because these will take us to 30th June, when the Council intends to “mothball” Halls where it has been unable to negotiate a lease arrangement with a community group.

With this terrible prospect in mind, be in absolutely no doubt that the Elgin Town Hall for the Community Working Group is doing everything that it possibly can to ensure that Elgin Town Hall is not closed for a single day, never mind for good.

That we are able to believe that we should be ready to take possession of the keys on 1st July, speaks volumes for the passion and determination of a group of (now 12) volunteers who hadn’t even met until the last days of February.

With the exception of one fundamental issue, relating to how the Council intends to release the funding that has been earmarked to help us get under way, we are working well with the relevant Council staff across a sizeable range of issues and we sense a real degree of urgency on their part. The issue of the “Growth Deal” highlighted by the P&J today is but a sideshow in comparison to many other issues (and we have never “pleaded” as the sensationalist headline claims).

The Working Group firmly believes that the outstanding issue relating to funding can be resolved if a pragmatic and imaginative approach is taken by the Council.

At our AGM last night, the now 12 members of the Working Group have become Directors of the Company (that we’ve had to set up) and it was agreed that the current Company name of “Lantern of the North” should be changed to “Elgin Town Hall for the Community”. This was done given the confusion that was being reported to us as we tried to operate with two names (albeit for somewhat different purposes).

It should be said if it wasn’t for “Lantern’s” Directors taking the initiative in calling a public meeting in January (well before the Council decision to close the Halls on 14th February), it is doubtful that we would be anywhere near where we are today and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

We are slowly but surely building our base of members but could do with many more. If we are to be truly an organisation that is “working for and answerable to the community” then we need more people involved and holding us to account. I would encourage you to join.

As any of the changes to the way that funding is disbursed might require full Council approval at its 6th June meeting, you can appreciate that things might go `down to the wire`. However, the Working Group is ready and willing to work away at this, however long it takes, with the `prize` being a handover to us by the Council on 1st July.

Recent events such as “Joseph” and the contact that is now being made with us from people across the UK, who have bookings from 1st July, but no current guarantee that these will be honoured, just underscores the necessity of the Town Hall, both in social and economic terms. We just cannot let closure of the Hall happen.

Thanks for your continuing support and let’s all hope that the next update will bring confirmation that the lease has been signed and that the community will indeed be running Elgin Town Hall from July 2018.

Best wishes.

Mike Devenney
Elgin Town Hall for the Community Working Group

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