Thousands spent on Bodmin town buildings
CASH-STRAPPED Bodmin Town Council has suffered years of massive losses on the buildings it owns.
The council has closed the Public Rooms and has made six staff redundant in a bid to save money, but its accounts show hundreds of thousands of pounds have been wiped from annual budgets by spending money on its buildings with little return.
During the previous financial year, it lost £44,000 on the Shire Hall and £51,750 on the Shire House complex.
The council closed the Public Rooms a month ago after suffering a £12,000 loss on the building last year.
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The council blames high insurance and maintenance costs for the losses, and insists it is impossible to look at the accounts on a purely profit and loss basis, as councils are not in the business of making money.
One of the largest losses recorded last year was from the tourism. The multi-award winning Visitor Information Centre, cost the council £102,000 to run, largely made up of staff wages. But its income was only £28,000, resulting in a loss of £74,000.
For the current financial year, the town council has estimated it will lose more than £95,000 on promoting the town through tourism, and £83,000 on the Shire House complex.
Councillor Ralph Solomons, chairman of the council's finance committee, said it was unfair to look at the figures on a profit and loss basis.
"Town councils do not make profits, and maintaining historic buildings costs an awful lot of money. Our insurance bill alone comes to £50,000 per year.'' said Mr Solomons.
"The income from these buildings isn't great because it's mainly local organisations that hire them, and we always try to keep the fee as low as possible, and give a discount of 40 per cent when we can.''
Mr Solomons said tourism was important to the area.
"You look at other tourist information centres in Cornwall and they now have financial problems because a lot of their funding has been cut. This has not happened in Bodmin because the town council pays to keep the visitor centre running, and it is vital that we continue to do so.
"If the town council were to shut it, imagine the detrimental effect it would have not only to Bodmin, but to tourism in the surrounding area.''
Mr Solomons said cuts had to be made this year, with 6 of the 20 town council staff losing their jobs, along with the closure of the Public Rooms.
He said he was confident the building would reopen in the future, with a newly formed charitable trust taking it over.
Mr Solomons added the town council had no intention of selling the building to a property developer if there was local interest to reopening the Public Rooms.
A past mayor of Bodmin Charles Horton said if the council had spent money on the Public Rooms over the years, it would still be open today.
Mr Horton, who was mayor between 1979 and 1980, said: "The last time any significant money was spent on the Public Rooms was in 1983 when £60,000 was spent on improvements to the building, and hardly anything has been spent since. The council has let it run down over the years, and I very much hope local people can get together and reopen it soon.''