STROUD’S MP is the latest public figure to throw his chips on the table in favour of keeping the Sub Rooms in public ownership.

The future of the Sub Rooms will be decided next month after a year-long debate.

Stroud District Council owns the arts and entertainment venue but due to dwindling funds and operating costs of £400,000 a year, it was forced to consider passed off the building.

It could still retain the site, but introduce cost-saving measures, pass it to a community group – such as the Stroud Trust – or sell it on the open market for £600,000.

Stroud MP David Drew has stated that valuable community assets such as the Sub Rooms are more likely to be sustained long-term via public ownership.

He also states that the current situation is one forced by “draconian austerity measures” which has left councils struggling to survive and pushed to make difficult decisions.

“In most modern democracies, valuable community assets such as the Sub Rooms are sustained for the long term via local public ownership,” said Mr Drew, who was elected in May for a third non-consecutive term.

“However, since 2010, the government’s draconian austerity measures have left councils and all forms of public services across the UK drastically underfunded and struggling to survive.

“In the face of this, after almost eight years of austerity, the district council is trying to maintain vital services and protect the most vulnerable from the impact of austerity.

“I can only assume that the reason the future of the Sub Rooms is even being questioned is in an attempt to defend essential District Council services in the face of this dire financial pressure.

“I would prefer to see the Sub Rooms retained by the community. I would also prefer Stroud, and society as a whole, not to be enduring the cost of the government’s failed austerity programme.”

SDC leader Steve Lydon was eager to stress that no decision had been made on the future of the venue, this comes as it was revealed last week that the task and finish group set up to analyse the best options, had chosen Ecotricity as the preferred bidder.

Stroud News and Journal:

“As local councillors who have tried to serve the best interests of our community for years, we understand the concern felt by the people of Stroud about the fate of the Subscription Rooms, which is such an iconic building at the heart of the town.

“So far no decision has been made.

“In October 2016 all political parties at Stroud District Council agreed to a review of the Subs as SDC was no longer able to afford to continue the venue’s yearly subsidy of hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax payers' money.

“An all-party Task and Finish Group was set up to investigate all possible options, and received three bids to run the venue in September 2017, one in-house, and two from external organisations.

“The group evaluated the bids according to the criteria agreed at the Strategy and Resources committee in January 2017: ‘any solution should not only improve the cost effectiveness for the public but also seek to retain its availability to the public for cultural use’.”

The two external organisations are the Stroud Trust – a community group supporting by the town council – and green energy company Ecotricity, based at Wallbridge.

Stroud Trust published its bid last week in an aim to promote further transparency and open debate ahead of the final decision on December 5 at the SDC strategy and resources committee meeting.

It relies on £50,000 from Stroud Town Council along with a combined £450,000 in grants from SDC, would see the venue close for a year for major refurbishments and the introduction of a Friends scheme.

Ecotricity has proposed a hybrid bid in which some 700 staff would make use of the upstairs ballroom through daytime hours in the week, with continued public access in upstairs in the evenings and weekends, and downstairs all week.

Stroud News and Journal:

Above - Members of the public and councillors rally to keep the venue from being sold.

Founder Dale Vince agrees with Mr Drew that the cause of the problems rest on a lack of SDC funding, but states that the Sub Rooms has always been a privately-funded public venue, which he says is what his company is proposing.

"I agree with what David says, all of it,” said Mr Vince.

“The problem at the heart of this is the cuts to local government funding, that leaves SDC with no choice but to reduce spending to protect the most essential services.

“Much has been said about the need to keep the Sub Rooms in public ownership, other people say the more important issue is that it remains in public use - that is my view.

“If you look more closely at the history of the Subs Rooms, it was a privately owned public venue from the start, yes it was built by subscription but those subscribers owned the building - not the public, that’s a popular misunderstanding.

“It continued in this way until the early 60s when what is now SDC bought it from a private company that could no longer afford to run it.

“For the last 50 years or so it’s been a publicly owned public venue.

“SDC cannot now afford to run it, we’re offering to privately fund is as a public venue - once again."

In 1834 subscribers raised a combined £2,721 and 10 shillings, the equivalent of about £2 million today, to build the venue in what was known as Kendrick’s Orchard.

Ownership was eventually transferred to what was then called the Stroud Urban District Council in 1962 for the price of £12,000.

Prior to the final decision on the Sub Rooms there will be a drop-in event at the venue on Saturday, November 18 at which people may leave their comments.

The Stroud Trust’s bid is publicly available here.