City council steps in to take control of Preston Guild Hall citing Simon Rigby’s ‘unacceptable behaviour’
Preston City Council has taken back control of the Guild Hall after one of the most extraordinary days in its history.
Yesterday morning, entrepreneur Simon Rigby announced both the Charter Theatre and Guild Hall were both back in business, weeks after placing the company which ran the venues into administration.
Hours later Beverley Budsworth, the administrator in control of Mr Rigby’s company – Preston Guild Hall Ltd – said the venue was not going to reopen, sowing confusion as to what exactly was happening.
Mr Rigby had sought to transfer the 999-year lease of the venue to a charity – of which he was named as a trustee.
But last night the city council stepped in and unceremoniously slammed the door in his face.
Special powers were used to reclaim the Guild Hall – a move supported by council leaders across the political spectrum.
The ‘Special Urgency Decision’ was taken by city council leader, Matthew Brown with agreement from Chair of Overview and Scrutiny, Preston Conservative Leader Sue Whittam and chief executive Adrian Phillips.
All agreed that this decision was in the best interests of the city and the council.
Ms Budsworth agreed to forfeit the lease due to what the council say are “significant breaches” of the lease agreement. This decision returns Preston Guild Hall to Preston City Council ownership, effective immediately.
Coun Brown said:“Over recent weeks it has become abundantly clear that it was necessary for the City Council to intervene and re-gain control of the property.
“We are absolutely committed to finding the best possible solution for the future of the Guild Hall, and our ultimate hope is that it is back up and running as an entertainment venue as soon as possible.
“As I have said before, the decision to transfer the Guild Hall into Mr Rigby’s ownership was the only viable decision we could make at the time, with the information we had and the stark financial situation we were in.
“We acted in good faith and have been let down by the unacceptable behaviour of Mr Rigby.
“As we move forward, we are putting considerable effort into supporting the re-opening and successful future of Preston Guild Hall, but can only work within the current budget position of the Council.
“We continue to be ambitious for the role of the Guild Hall within the city and are confident for the extensive regeneration that is currently taking place across Preston.”
Leader of Preston Conservative Party, Councillor Sue Whittam said: “It is disappointing that taking this decision was necessary, but it is clearly the right step for Preston City Council to take. We are united in our commitment to find an affordable solution for Preston Guild Hall that meets the needs of the city.”
Leader of Preston and Wyre Liberal Democrats Party, Councillor John Potter said: “We have to view this as a new opportunity for the city. Preston City Council has made the best decision it could in the current circumstances and now we have to work together to find a viable solution that is in the best interests of the city, the council and its residents.”
A spokesman for the council added: “As this forfeiture renders all sub-leases of outlets within the Guild Hall null and void, the City Council is committed to working with the current tenants to ensure a seamless transition and minimal disruption.
The Charter Theatre and Grand Hall will remain closed until further notice.
“Enquiries regarding the previously advertised programme and tickets need to be directed towards the administrator.
“Special measures may need to be applied to any tenant or organisation linked to Simon Rigby.
“In line with the administrator’s position, Preston City Council does not recognise any supposed lease linking Mr Rigby’s charity to Preston Guild Hall.”