22 April 2024

Wiltshire Council provide details on City Hall repairs and running costs

Wiltshire Council Leader, Richard Clewer, has shared a briefing with councillors outlining more details about the work required to reopen the City Hall in Salisbury.

The briefing was sent to all Wiltshire Councillors as well as the town and parish Councils.

In the briefing, Cllr Clewer re-confirmed the commitment to reopening City Hall as an Entertainment Venue as well as providing more detail on the costs to reopen the building.

ElementEstimated Cost
Fabric£857,839
Mechanical£532,538
Electrical£419,796
Total£1,810,173
Information from Wiltshire Council

Also shared were the last few years of income and expenditure for the City Hall, showing the losses it had made.

In its last full year of being open (2019/20), the City Hall lost over £65,700 whilst losses in the years preceding that were sometimes as high as £343,000.

Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council, said: “Following a few recent enquires I thought it would be useful to share some more information on the condition of City Hall, which we think provides some context on some of the challenges we’re facing.

“I’d like to reiterate that we remain fully committed to reopening City Hall as an entertainment venue. We continue to investigate funding options which could see the existing building enhanced, creating a modern entertainment venue.

“As I said in the briefing, there has been a lot of recent public discussion about City Hall, and it’s clear that people are extremely passionate about this venue which has been part of the city’s cultural fabric for many years. We all want the same thing – a thriving City Hall that’s befitting of Wiltshire’s only city. We’ll continue to work hard to ensure that happens.”

You can read the full condition update here.

Richard Clewers briefing in full:

Dear Member, Following a number of recent enquires that we’ve received, I thought it would be useful to share some information on the condition of City Hall in Salisbury, which I hope provides you with some context on the current situation as we continue to plan for the venue’s future. I’m aware that not all of you will have a vested interest in the venue but in the spirit of transparency I thought it would be best to share this with everyone.

Firstly, I’d like to reiterate that we remain fully committed to reopening City Hall as an entertainment venue. We continue to investigate funding options which could see the existing building enhanced, creating a modern entertainment venue. However, we can’t open a building which isn’t safe to allow live music to be played in. We have a working group in place and will be undertaking further assessment on the best solution for City Hall so that it can be an
entertainment venue that is sustainable for the long term.

It is our ambition for an enhanced City Hall to be part of the city’s Cultural Quarter concept as the economic benefits to the city and wider area would be incredibly positive, but we have some important work to do and steps to take before we reach that point. There has also been some public discussion about the income the venue generated while it was leased to the NHS to support the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Although we did receive income from the NHS due to our lease agreement with them, it’s important to note there was still significant expenditure required to be spent on the building during this period. The income generated was put into the council’s overall budget to help us manage our services at a financially unpredictable time for the country.

Due to how we manage our budgets, this income would not have been able to have been ring-fenced solely for City Hall, and even if we had done that it would have still been far short of what is required to make the necessary repairs. You can find more details about the income and expenditure of the venue since 2009/10 up until now here. You will clearly see that until the COVID-19 pandemic the venue made an annual loss, and this happened every year since Wiltshire Council was created.

We are now focused on working up plans on the future of City Hall as an entertainment venue that represents best value for money for tax payers and gives it the best opportunity to thrive for the long-term. Here is a City Hall summary condition report which details the repair work required at the venue and the proposed costings involved, which are estimated to total circa £2m. Enclosed below you will find an email in full from Wiltshire Council’s Corporate Director for Resources and Deputy Chief Executive Andy Brown which was sent to me on 30 June 2023.

In summary, following a number of mitigating factors, it has been clearly recommended to me that repair work should be undertaken before we can think about reopening the venue. A surveyor’s instruction to us was to keep acoustic stress to an absolute minimum until further investigations had been undertaken on the ceiling.

The email also confirms the council’s insurance policy contains a material damage policy that has a general clause stating that a building must be kept in good repair, otherwise the policy is invalidated. Additionally, our public liability policy would likely be invalidated in the case of an incident and/or injury.

For these clear reasons, it’s simply not possible to re-open the venue at this moment in time. There has been a lot of recent public discussion about City Hall, and it’s clear that people are extremely passionate about this venue which has been part of the city’s cultural fabric for many years.

We all want the same thing – a thriving City Hall that’s befitting of Wiltshire’s only city. We’ll continue to work hard to ensure that happens. We will keep you updated as we progress with this work.

Cllr Richard Clewer Leader, Wiltshire Council

Written by
Andy Munns
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Written by Andy Munns