Council leader receives death threats over Bedworth Civic Hall closure

Cllr Kris Wilson Credit: BPM Media

A council leader claims he has received death threats over the closure of a civic hall.

Councillor Kris Wilson, the Conservative leader of Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, said he had been targeted after the authority decided to shut The Civic Hall in Bedworth, Warwickshire.

He told a heated cabinet meeting that people said he should be 'hung' for allowing the venue to close.

Addressing residents and fellow councillors, Cllr Wilson said that he 'wished' he did not have to make the decision, but pointed out the council needed to find £1m to balance the books.

The £1m-plus that is needed to get the venue opened means it is 'not financially viable' in its current form, he insisted. 

The Civic Hall, Bedworth Credit: BPM Media

Cllr Wilson said: "Believe me, I wish I was not in this position of having to make this decision. I have had death threats in the past ten days. 

"Whatever people's viewpoints are, and it is your right to disagree, for someone to ask for me to be hung by the gallows outside the Town Hall is not appropriate.."

Later in the meeting, Cllr Wilson told the chamber: "I really, really wish we didn't have to do this. You guys wouldn't be as upset as you are, I wouldn't be having the death threats I have received. But I have to make difficult decisions."Cabinet members heard a number impassioned pleas from performers and residents to keep The Civic Hall open. 

They were all left devastated by the news that, once the venue stops being used as a NHS vaccination centre at the end of this month, it will close for good.

The Civic Hall Credit: BPM Media

Much of the concern centred around there being no public consultation over the plans, nor any chance to save the venue. 

There have been petitions set up to save the venue, including one that demands a public meeting into the closure, but so far none have led to any action at the Town Hall.It is no secret that the venue has, for many years, been heavily subsidised with council taxpayers' cash and the cabinet meeting heard that it cost the local authority £28 every time someone used it. 

The council has said that it need find £1m savings to balance the books before February and the venue needs in excess of £1m spending to re-open as an arts venue, due to historic maintenance issues that need resolving.

This, said Cllr Wilson, means it is 'financially unviable' in its current form. He said that the council was looking into how to safeguard its future but, as the NHS decided to withdraw its use as a vaccination centre at the end of this month instead of next year, it has forced them to take action now.While announcing the closure of the venue, the council unveiled its plans for Transforming Bedworth, which contains proposals for a new theatre within a new civic building on Rye Piece Ringway, along with new apartments, shops and a multi-storey car park. 

Cllr Wilson said: "The decision was not made last Wednesday, when we had the final decision from the NHS to say that it wanted to withdraw and when we saw the plans for proposed regeneration of Bedworth."That was when we had to make a decision, we could not delay it any further. Until that point, we were looking at keeping every viable option to keep The Civic Hall going, and pursue the regeneration angle at the same time."If we could have kept The Civic Hall open, while we got the regeneration plans under way, then we would have done so, but the finances don't stack up, that's the problem." 

Cabinet members unanimously agreed to the closure plan, but this decision can be 'called in' for scrutiny.