COMMUNITY groups will now be able to rent the town council’s former offices as a meeting space for a “very, very cheap” hourly price.

Councillors voted unanimously last Friday in favour of a proposal to lease out the old town council offices, at 66b High Street, for £5 per hour.

It was also agreed that £700 would be taken from the New Building Fund to create a new Room Hire Fund, which would cover costs associated with running the building, such as cleaning, utilities and insurance.

Concerns had been raised over the proposal, but town council chairman Cllr Richard Rowles suggested agreeing the proposal and reviewing its success at a later date.

He said: “There are obviously some concerns, however if we choose not to vote for this then we have another month before the meeting room gets used.

“My suggestion would be that if councillors find this recommendation not unpalatable, let’s put it that way, that we proceed and then we have a review at the next town council meeting to see how it’s been taken up.”

Prior to the decision there had been some discussion around the £5 per hour fee. Cllrs Lauren Banville and David Treadwell called a degree of flexibility over the price, in case certain groups were unable to afford the cost.

However Cllrs Andy Fitchet and Victoria Harber said the price was reasonable, with Cllr Rowles adding: “I don’t think £5 is very much compared to other places in town.

“It’s very, very cheap. Very cheap.”

Cllr Fitchet also pointed to potential issues that would come with offering variable rates, such as the difficulties in assessing and determining which groups are more deserving of discounted prices than others.

Speaking of a flat £5 per hour fee, he added: “It’s a very simply system to administer that will not take up a lot of our already stretched officers’ time.”

Questions were also raised surround the £700 budget allocated to the project, but it was noted that the full budget would not necessarily be spent.

Cllr Harber added: “It’s a budget, not a challenge, we don’t have to spend it all.”

The proposal was approved with an amendment added to review the uptake at the next full council meeting.