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Town Hall future uncertain

By Ed Elliot, Penistone Reporter Thursday 14th February 2013

The future use of Penistone Town Hall is uncertain after Barnsley Council confirmed it was considering removing services it operates from there.


The Shrewsbury Road building, which is owned by Barnsley Council, is currently home to its connects service and social services, as well as being used by the freemasons, the East Peak Innovation Partnership, Penistone and District Community Partnership and Penistone Town Council.


A Barnsley Council spokesman said it is reviewing usage of the connects service before deciding what action to take.


The service, which deals with housing issues, including rent, housing benefit and problems such as vandalism and anti-social behaviour, could move to Penistone Library and be operated on an appointment-based system.


Coun Jenny Platts, cabinet spokesman for adults and communities, said: "The council has been working on the co-location of Barnsley Connects with the library services for the past couple of years.


"We are currently reviewing the customer demand on Barnsley Connects at Penistone Town Hall following which we will then consider options going forward."


Barnsley Coun Andrew Millner, who also sits on the town council, said he received a report which showed use of the service was low, and possible changes were part of council budget cuts.


He did not think moving to an appointment-based system would be a problem, and a service-level agreement, which defines the service provided, would remain.


"The social make-up of the town is different from (for example) Hoyland and Barnsley and other areas so there's some justification to move into a more central location," he said.


The possible move also brings questions about the future of the building and whether Barnsley Council will continue to fund it. Other options include an asset transfer to the town council or leasing it for a nominal fee.


Coun Millner said he was interested to find out council plans for the building and would like to see it used as office space and an additional cinema to the Penistone Paramount so live events and films can be shown simultaneously.


But he felt the financial implications of the town council running the building, which would probably mean increasing the precept considerably, may be too much.

"It could be a millstone around our neck," he added. "Some of the ceiling has got holes in it because of water damage, so it's quite an expensive issue."

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