Extraordinary council meeting in Halesworth on Rifle Hall

PUBLISHED: 21:19 25 July 2012 | UPDATED: 09:30 26 July 2012

Halesworth Rifle Hall trustees Bernard Hill (left) with John Marshall Potter

Halesworth Rifle Hall trustees Bernard Hill (left) with John Marshall Potter

Archant © 2011

A town council has agreed to improve the way it works with the trustees of an 18th century hall after a dispute at an open day.

An extraordinary meeting was called in Halesworth this evening after vice chairman Ezra Leverett handed a list of questions to the Rifle Hall Trustees on Saturday, July 14 that were not backed by the rest of the council.

The councillor had asked for a reply to around 25 questions about the running of the hall be given to the town clerk, leading to a dispute that continued later in the town centre.

This led council chairman James Wagner to call the extraordinary meeting, after seeking advice with Arthur Charvonia, assistant chief executive at Waveney District Council, and Suffolk Association of Local Councils.

Mr Wagner said: “As a council it is naïve to say we are not familiar with the questions as discussed, however how they were delivered and the wording was different.

“It was compiled and delivered without the knowledge of councillors.”

Mr Wagner said he supported the Rifle Hall Trustees and hoped that other councillors supported the project, however the council needed a different approach.

“We have got to the point of being too authoritarian, demanding things from the Rifle Hall we have no right to know,” he said.

“We have the right to know what is going on as it was left to the people of Halesworth, however we have no more right than Joe Bloggs down the street.”

The point of the meeting was to create a way forward for the council and the Rifle Hall Trust, which took on the historic building from Waveney District Council.

Councillor Annette Dunning said: “I think it is really difficult when people back the Rifle Hall when there are those from within who clearly for some reason or another don’t.

“We have to agree to walk in the same direction.”

Councillor Jacqueline Wagner said: “We should look forward, going forward with communication between us and the Rifle Hall. It is no good sitting around this table and pretending that there is not some sort of bad blood.”

The council agreed with five in favour and two abstaining that they would ask the Rifle Hall who they would like as a representative to talk to on the council, allowing them to communicate in a consistent way. Mr Leverett and his wife Sandra, who is also a councillor, sent their apologies for not attending the meeting.

Speaking outside the meeting, trustee John Marshall Potter said that the meeting was “very positive”.

He added: “I think a very clear majority of Halesworth Town Council are supportive.”

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