CONFIRMATION of ‘financial discrepancies’, pressure for the building to remain in public hands, and concerns about changes to the agreed review process has led to calls for a halt in current Sub Rooms proceedings.

An official report presented to the strategy and resources committee last month shows that the financial records relating to the annual costs of the building are incorrect.

SDC has always claimed that it was forced to look into the future of its continued ownership of the Sub Rooms after the council’s annual subsidy of the building reached just under £400,000.

However, a statement provided to the SNJ by SDC has confirmed that these figures are ‘inaccurate’:

"In light of the financial information supplied to the task and finish group being found to be inaccurate, the financial implications in the report for strategy and resources committee will be updated.” 

The statement continued: “A supplementary report is being prepared for consideration by the Committee and will be published later this week. 

“In addition, an investigation will be undertaken to establish the reason for the accountancy error. 

“The Council wishes to apologise for any confusion or inconvenience caused,” the statement concludes.

Audited annual accounts for the Subscription Rooms for 2016/17 shows that the subsidy was in fact at least £150,000 less than the figure publicised.

It now appears that even if the building was disposed of by the council, the annual saving would be £170,000, less than half of the initial number given.

Garry Strudwick, chair of the Stroud branch of the Labour Party, said: "This opens up the whole question of the need to dispose of the Sub Rooms, as the gap may be closed through more effective financial management.”  

However, concerns have been raised after the SDC chose to display the contested figures to the public over the weekend.

District councillor Norman Kay expressed disbelief that the incorrect accounts were included in the public displays: “I asked for any checks be completed by close of business on Friday, as there was an information event for the public on Saturday morning, I understand that the figure of £373,298 was still used in the event.”

“Together with other issues that have already been raised, I believe this casts such doubt on the process, SDC must now pause, and undertake a fundamental review of the situation.”

Thousands of people have also signed a petition calling for the building to remain in public ownership.

Richard House, of the Keep Our Subs Public (KOSP) campaign said: “People of Stroud from every conceivable age-group, social class and location have spoken and over 3,500 citizens now having signed our petition in barely two weeks.

"From the feedback and stories we’ve heard, if a referendum were held on the future of the Subs, it would almost certainly come out at least 95:5 in favour of keeping the Subs in community hands.”

There is further confusion as to whether the comments that the public provided as part of the SDC event on Saturday will be included in the final report.

According to the official process document published in February, there was to be a ‘public consultation’ prior to the task & finish group recommendations being published.

The document, which was distributed earlier this year, stated that the following tasks would be completed in Sept/Oct 2017:

  • Collate option bids and business cases for option appraisals
  • Prepare and advertise public consultation event on options
  • Hold consultation event and collate feedback for the task group
  • Task group prepare final report and recommendations for Strategy & Resources committee

The SNJ has now been informed that the ‘drop-in’ event that was held last weekend was not a public consultation.

Councillor Martin Baxendale, a member of the task and finish group charged with looking into the future of the Subs, was present at the council event on Saturday: “I talked to a lot of people, and the vast majority seemed angry at the way the council have handled this whole issue as well as at the recommendation to sell the building.”

In response to the growing complaints the Stroud Constituency Labour Party voted for there to be a ‘pause in the process’, to address the concerns of their members.

Richard House of the Keep Our Subs Public (KOSP) campaign: “At the Stroud CLP all-members meeting held on Saturday, Labour party members voted overwhelmingly for a motion to keep the Subs in community hands.

“It also calls for a pause in the current process, and for there to be round-table discussions arranged between the bidders.

“In the light of the expressed views of Green party members, Labour party members and the vast majority of public opinion in Stroud, it would be, at the very least, very surprising if the Stroud District councillors weren’t now to draw back, and re-visit what many believe to have been a deeply flawed process to date.”

Kevin Cranston, Town Mayor, Stroud Town Council is open to discussion with the District Council to find the best solution for the building: “It should not be a hasty decision.

“The community view is overwhelmingly that the Sub Rooms and forecourt should remain in public ownership,” he said.

“We would urge Stroud District Council to talk to all interested parties and to find a negotiated solution that protects the Subscription Rooms in perpetuity.

“As elected members, and servants of the community, it is important for us to find the solution that best meets the wishes of the community.

A compromise solution can be found and Stroud Town Council and Stroud Trust are as ever willing to help find it.”