WESTBURY ARTS CENTRE PRESS RELEASE
Rumours have begun to circulate among the artists communities and the wider public of Milton keynes regarding the situation at Westbury Arts Centre. Therefore the board of trustees have decided to make the following statement to clarify the situation there as it currently stands.
Westbury Arts Centre faces potential closure following a rates demand of over £34,000. The Arts Centre, despite being a registered Arts Charity, has had its application for rates relief rejected by the Council.
Historically the then landlords of the building had paid the rates, but a recent return of ownership of the building to the Council and a new Landlord has changed the situation. The new Landlords have agreed to be liable for the rates on the building up to the end of May 2014 but have stated they are unable to make such a commitment beyond that date. This means that WAC is liable for the full rates on the building from that date onwards.
The Council has rejected the Arts Centre application for rates relief saying that what the artists do in the studios that the charity lets them use is not of a charitable purpose.
The backdated demand has come without any warning. Unless a solution can be found, Westbury Arts Centre will have to close its doors when the last of the charity’s reserves are used up, “We are trying to stay positive but the Council seems to have tied itself in a knot and we are being killed off in the process” said Caroline Malone, Westbury’s chair.
As a part of its Arts and Heritage Strategy, the Council have let local artists and performers and musicians occupy the building at a peppercorn rent for over 20 years, as well as organisations, supported by the council, that are providing care and learning for disabled adults who have been using the centre for the last ten years.
Along with the council’s encouragement and support, Westbury became an independent charity just over a year ago. Mrs Malone said, “It’s taken a huge effort to get where we are now and there is more going on here than ever before. We’re open to the public as much as we can be with the tiny resources we have available to us and we can’t understand how this crazy situation has come about. ” “We’re not asking for any money or funding”, added Mrs Malone, “just for a solution to the situation that will enable us to continue. We don’t receive any core funding and survive on hundreds of hours of volunteers’ time; we have also looked after this historic listed building for all those years.
This demand for backdated rates and the future rates bills that will have to be paid by the charity would be unsustainable. The trustees have been trying to find a way forwards with the Council so we can continue, but as things stand it looks as if Westbury Arts Centre will have to vacate the premises and it will be boarded up come September.
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