Questions over future of adult education hall

Alston Hall
Alston Hall
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A QUESTION mark is hanging over the future of Lancashire adult education facility Alston Hall.

The Gothic style country mansion, near Longridge, has been the venue for county council-run day, evening and residential adult education classes and courses since 1974.

But councillors have been told the figures for its usage and income generation are not adding up.

The admission over the uncertain future of the historic property and provision at other colleges at Chorley and Lancaster, was spelt out at a full meeting of Lancashire County Council.

Longridge County Coun David Smith had tabled a written question asking: “Would the Cabinet Member for Adult and Community Services County Coun Tony Martin tell us what plans are in place for the development of courses at Alston Hall and how he intends to secure its future?”

Coun Martin replied: “I’ve asked for some detailed work to be done on the true cost of Alston Hall to the county council as a whole.”

Noting multi-million pound cuts ahead, he said some non-statutory services might disappear. Weekday occupancy rates for the Hall and income fell by seven percent from 2013-14.

Weekend occupancy had dropped from 27 per cent in 2013 to 24 per cent in 2014. Meanwhile income had decreased from £654,000 in 2013 to £532,000 in 2014 and the building would need some £900,000 spent on it in maintenance costs.

Noting some 60 per cent of use for adult learning was by the County Council, Coun Martin said: “It’s important as an organisation we continue to make available provision to teach and train our staff.We do need to make sure we are doing all we can so courses are viable and picked up by the public.”

He said one thought was to use community based facilities and make staff travel to such venues, adding: “The future of Alston Hall is not fully assured.”

Coun Smith said transparency was needed and the uncertainty was causing “unrest”.