Hitchin Town Hall price hikes leave users worried
THE cost to hire a Hitchin community venue will rise up to three times from Friday onwards, leaving some people worried that they may not be able to afford to use it anymore.
To hire out the main hall on a weekday evening or a weekend daytime will cost �40 for community use and �70 for private use - a substantial amount more than the �23.35 current flat rate.
Weekday fares will rise from �14 to �25 and �40 for community and private hire respectively. A weekend hire will cost up to �120 - three times more than the current �40.80.
Hiring out the bar or the Lucas and Workmans Hall rooms aren't exempt either and could also cost up to twice as much.
Among those affected is Rodney Perrott, who runs his own group Rodney's Dance School on Wednesday evenings in the main hall.
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Usually he pays just under �90 to hire the hall for four hours, but this will rise to �160.
The dance group also run an annual Children In Need event in November, the cost of which has nearly trebled to �1,390, prompting Mr Perrott to have to cancel it.
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"This increase is going to make it hard to continue to run our classes from this venue and we will probably have to look for an alternative venue or think about closing," said Mr Perrott.
"I don’t know what we'll do, as there aren't any other venues in the area which will be big enough.
"We use seven other halls for our group, and their hourly rates vary between �15 and �20 an hour, so it's quite a difference.
"We're not the only ones affected. People just can't afford it. I’ve told a few people about it, and they're worried that we will close."
North Herts District Council (NHDC), which set the rates, said that the increases were necessary to recover day-to-day running costs.
"The strategy working group looked at the extent to which Hitchin Town Hall is used by different hirer groups and event organisers before making its recommendations," said Lynn Saville, NHDC's head of community and cultural services.
"The general view was that residents of North Herts should not be subsidising private functions such as weddings and birthday parties and every effort should be made to cover the costs of operating these hires.
"The council did not levy a flat rate increase because they felt that this was not fair on daytime community groups that use the smaller rooms in the building, during the period when staff are already on hand.
"The main hall at Hitchin Town Hall is very attractive to hire because of its large size.
"In hiring it for use especially during the evening and weekends there are extra costs involved and it was felt that this should be recognised in the charges set for this room."