A FORMER Tenbury mayor has hit out at the town council for imposing an inflation busting increase in the council tax precept while at the same time ‘giving away’ the Regal.

Keith Griffiths, who is chairman of the Tenbury Amateur Dramatic Society, has been a long standing critic of the decision of the town council to lease the Regal to a trust.

“It was a terrible decision,” said Keith Griffiths, “They have effectively given the Regal away at a time when the council is putting the precept up above inflation.”

“The town council has entered in a 40 year lease that means that between now and 2017 the rent will be £4,400 a year which is £85 a week or the kind of rent that you might expect to pay for a council flat,” said Keith Griffiths.

“But it gets worse because between 2017 and 2022 the lease is just £5 a year so in five years the council will receive just £25 for The Regal.

“And that is not all because it is not even a repairing lease so the town council and the people of Tenbury will still be responsible for the upkeep of the building.”

He says that the Regal is now being run effectively as a commercial venture by the trust and this means that groups like the Tenbury Amateur Dramatic Society and the town’s operatic group, that has closed, could not afford to use the facility.

George Price, whose term as Tenbury mayor ended this month, has defended the decision but does not dispute the figures from Keith Griffiths.

“A great deal of thought was made in reaching this decision for the best interests of the town but the problem is looking at it just on the basis of the figures can make it look odd,” said George Price.

“However, there is a bigger picture and this was the best of a range of options that was considered.

“We have preserved a wonderful facility for the town and it is hard to find anyone who does not believe that the Regal is superb.

“Some of the performers that come to Tenbury would never normally be expected to be found on the bill at a small market town.

“It makes a huge contribution to the local economy with people coming into the town for a show, spending money in Tenbury and then coming back.

“There is hardly an arts facility in the country that does not have some kind of subsidy.”

Tenbury Town Council says it considered three options for the future of the Regal which included the council continuing to run the facility, appointing a manager but to run the facility, or to let it on a lease to the trust.

With this chosen option the town council continues to own the building and be responsible for structural repairs but the day-to-day running, including the programme, the setting of the hire charge, and marketing, is the responsibility of the trust.

The town council says that for it to continue running the building the annual cost would have been £16,700 and they would have had problems meeting the criteria imposed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.