Councillors walkout of meeting in row over music bunker

THE couple behind a music studio that runs a free youth service have hit out at Salisbury City Council’s leader after they walked out of a heated public meeting.

Ross Sanderson and Kayleigh McCormick converted a council-owned Cold-War bunker in Harnham into a recording studio which opened last year.

In exchange for a peppercorn rent and £100,000 of developer funding, their not-for-profit company Life Rocks offers six hours of free youth service a week during term time. They also run a private business, The Sound Emporium, from the bunker.

They clashed with city council leader Matthew Dean last Monday after he pressed them for their first-year’s accounts and a written report - which he says is a term of the lease agreement.

In a 1,300-word post on Facebook, Mr Sanderson claims they were “ambushed” at the meeting and accused Mr Dean of slander, as well as “deliberate persecution and harassment”.

He said they handed in a written report after the meeting and had not been asked to bring their accounts. Accusing Mr Dean of trying to “embarrass and humiliate” them, he posted: “After years of being put through endless public meetings, insulted by councillors, questioned as to our motivations and constantly made demands of, this was simply the straw that broke that camel’s back.”

Responding, Mr Dean said he was duty-bound to ensure value for taxpayers’ money and that the money was accounted for.

“Regrettably we haven’t received a written annual report from the organisation involved and this was agreed by both sides when we gave them the money and signed a lease granting them tenure of the bunker,” he said.

“In a public meeting they then chose not to answer my questions and walked out.”

Mr Sanderson added: “We were accused of being profit-hungry business owners duping the council into handing over a prized asset and spending Salisbury City Council money. Neither is true.”

The council said more detail was required from Life Rocks.