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HONITON: Beehive funding plans ‘untrue’, says councillor

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Claims that Honiton’s new community centre could miss out on essential funding because of lease disagreements have been dismissed as ‘untrue’ and ‘misleading’.
At the February full council meeting, chairman of directors for the Beehive Company, Councillor Vernon Whitlock, claimed the town council’s decision not to award the company a long-term lease for the centre would lead to funding applicants withdrawing their bids.
But East Devon District Councillor for Honiton St Michael’s Ward Mike Allen said there had been a ‘misunderstanding’ and the company’s decision to apply for charity status meant there had to be changes to the lease agreement.
Councillor Allen said: “The claim by Councillor Vernon Whitlock on behalf of the Beehive Directors that the town council has altered its lease policy is untrue.
“The truth is that two or three weeks ago the Beehive Directors applied for grant funds without having charity status, knowing they would not get it in the short term – so their claim that the town council caused them to ‘lose’ the grant is untrue.”
At an extraordinary meeting of the town council held in private on February 4th, councillors voted in favour of awarding the company a non-renewable six month lease, but Beehive Directors want a much longer lease at a peppercorn rent.
Councillor Whitlock warned that one bid worth £74,000 could fall through, and at least two others – to the People’s Lottery and Community Council for Devon – could be scuppered by the decision.
The money, Councillor Whitlock said, would have been used to fund the provision of stage lighting, audio equipment and a projector to allow the showing of Community Cinema and live streaming productions.
Councillor Allen added: “Any action taken regarding a lease, by the Beehive Company or the town council, had to alter once the Beehive Directors asked for charity status – a lease to a charity would differ from that to the existing company. The Beehive Company has been taking bookings and has started to advertise its opening activities. But at the January meeting of the town council the Beehive Company was said to have no cash funds and still has no lease, which means that technically it is trading illegally, and its directors are personally liable for debts, including payment of business rates on the premises.
“The impasse caused by the Beehive Directors wanting charity status is now subject to intensive discussion by the town council who fully acknowledge the hard work of the Beehive Directors, the Friends of the Beehive and the town councillors who have developed the Beehive, despite two votes by Honiton townspeople against this development.”
The Beehive will be officially handed over to the community on Monday, March 10th.

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