Council ‘100% committed’ to Hitchin Town Hall funding

“WE will find the money and we remain committed” - that is the message from a councillor to Hitchin residents regarding the town hall project.

North Herts District Council deputy leader and finance portfolio holder Cllr Terry Hone said that he was confident the money would be found to fund the �4.23m scheme.

It follows comments he made at a Cabinet meeting, as reported by The Comet last week, which implied that he was concerned over the financial viability of the project.

But Cllr Hone told The Comet that he and NHDC were still committed to funding the project. He also apologised for comments, which included swearing, he made on social networking site Twitter, claiming that he was just “passionate” to complete the scheme.

“I was reiterating to Cabinet that if we don’t get that lottery money, we need to look at other alternatives and make some tough decisions,” said Cllr Hone.

“There is a commitment from us to find the funds. We have committed to a capital programme, and quite rightly.

“If we don’t get this [lottery] funding, we will have to make some decisions. But that is what Cabinet is all about - you have to make tough decisions. What I said was nothing unusual.

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“We will find the funds. But we don’t have that money right now, we don’t just have �3.5m in the bank. It’s not there.

“If we can’t find lottery funding, then we find the money from somewhere else. We don’t want the lottery foundation to feel we have the money. If we said [to them], ‘don’t worry if you don’t give us the money because we have it’, it would be a foolish thing to do.

“I am 100% behind this. It’s all been a mountain out of a molehill.”

Cllr Lynda Needham, leader of NHDC, said: “I want to reassure everyone that Terry Hone’s inappropriate remarks on Twitter do not represent the views of the council, and I would like to apologise if this has cast any doubt on our support for the project, to which we remain absolutely committed.”

Meanwhile, formal approval is expected to be given by the interested parties, including Hitchin Town Hall Ltd, NHDC, Future Builders and the Charity Commission, at the end of next month.

It comes as a process is underway to appoint a supervising architect, an essential procedure which has added several months onto the original completion estimate. The project is now expected to be completed late in 2013.