Centre’s spending thrown into doubt

HEATED exchanges were traded between councillors over the future of Darley Dale’s Whitworth Centre, which continues to lose thousands of pounds each year.

At the recent full council meeting, Cllr Dave Oakley called for a review into the Whitworth Centre Ltd trust over decisions it takes, claiming Darley Dale Town Council should be given the right to veto its spending.

The trust is made up of councillors and other local figureheads, and Cllr Oakley, who sits on the trust, says he has often voted against spending what he called “large sums of monies” in a bid to turn the centre’s financial fortunes around.

Around £25,000 was lost last year and there are fears for its long-term future, but the trust has been tasked to come up with ways to halt the slide.

One idea was to open a cafe on the premises, for which a feasibility study was carried out. It was found it could cost between £150,000 and £200,000 to launch – a figure which alarmed Cllr Oakley.

He said: “I fear we have not got the money to do all that is being planned, especially if there are £200,000 projects running around.”

But chairman of the trust, Cllr Paul Diggle was quick to explain, and said no such spending was earmarked.

He said: “The bottom line is that the Whitworth Centre has been losing money for 100 years. It’s not bringing in enough to support itself.

“We need a sustainable business to support it, so we can plough money back into the building and the community.

“We have been exploring ways of making money. There are no plans to spend large sums of money, but there are plans to see if it’s feasible to raise money to then support a business plan around a cafe. If it’s not feasible, it won’t go ahead.”

A proposal was put forward to stop any current or proposed expenditure by the trust and limit the expenditure to day-to-day running costs until there has been a full review by the town council.

But the idea was rejected after six of the attending councillors voted against it, with only three voting in favour. One councillor abstained.

Prior to taking the vote, mayor of Darley Dale and chair of Thursday night’s council meeting, Cllr Ingrid Pasteur, had said that for the full council to review the trust’s spending would throw the trust’s existence into question.

She said: “If the council has got to take the decisions then there’s no point having the board.”