SELLING Salisbury’s historic Guildhall is one of the ideas being circulated in the city in order to keep down council tax.
In an email to the council leader and group leaders, Cllr James Robertson said: “You asked for budgetary suggestions and here they are: One: put the Guildhall on the market, but after enquiring about office space at Bourne Hill.”
He says the £67,000 that will have to be spent over each of the next ten to 15 years to repair the Guildhall roof could be saved by finding an alternative site for council business and putting the £5m Grade-II listed Guildhall on the market.
His email says the anticipated £161,000 shortfall in the city council’s income from April could be made up by not spending money on the Guildhall roof and other small projects and by delaying works to improve Victoria Park.
Council taxpayers could then be warned about future precept increases. He adds: “I do not think it is reasonable to pass the nastiness of a raise without warning people.”
On Monday, the city council will consider a plan to increase council tax from April by nearly 14 per cent, bringing the city band D property precept up to £102.50 from the current £90.
When contacted by the Journal, Cllr Roberston said he had suggested selling The Guildhall in order “to concentrate minds” as he was very much against an increase in the council tax.
He said: “If we can buy time this year we help residents and help the budgeting process for next year. “If we are going to spend £800,000 on the roof we should embrace a whole range of possibilities before we commit to it. We need to put residents first.”
He said all the indications were that poverty was on the increase in Salisbury and although he wanted to keep The Guildhall, which dates from 1795, he said it might make sense for city council staff to share accommodation with Wiltshire Council staff in Bourne Hill.
Cllr Robertson’s idea was heavily criticised by fellow councillor Matthew Dean, who said it was a non-starter. He said: “What an outrageous policy suggestion. “This is a fire sale of assets for the short-term. You can imagine the public reaction. Who would buy it? You cannot turn it into flats.” He said the city council would only receive half its value if sold, because the other half would have to go to Wiltshire Council. “This is an idea that has not been thought through,” he added.
He said the building was profitable as a conference centre and wedding venue and was a city asset.