For a sheep or a lamb?
Last year a dispute over how to approach the issue of the future of Langport’s Hanging Chapel led to the resignation of 7 Langport Councillors. The chapel is a 14th century gatehouse to the old town with a chapel built over the arch. It is in many people’s minds the very essence, the representation in stone of Langport.
The issue at stake that led to the resignations was all about openness. The councillors felt that as an in camera meeting had been held to discuss a matter of commercial sensitivity, the rules governing good conduct in office would have been broken by talking about the matter in public. Strictly speaking they were correct.
However there was a feeling among the public that the fate of the chapel was being kept from them and a strong suspicion that the Hanging Chapel was about to be sold. That was anathema to the local residents but in the emotional outpouring that followed, the more hard-headed aspects of how to pay for the upkeep of the Chapel got swept away into a dark corner.
Things moved on. In the election to fill the vacancies created by the mass extinction of local representatives, a group of candidates campaigned under the banner of being more open.
On Tuesday this week at a meeting of Langport Town Trust we learned that a survey has been undertaken of the state of the Hanging Chapel. It has already identified a number of faults including some urgent repairs to the roof. The exact cost of the repairs was not discussed, only the fast that the surveyors report had cost £3,500. Sat in the audience it did not feel very open and transparent. In fact it felt as if all the salient details were not being discussed.
Is there a significant repair bill in the offing? Will the Town Trust have the funds available to pay for it? What will they do if there are insufficient funds? Is it in fact the case that the Hanging Chapel may have to be sold after all?
None of these issues were addressed. But only for the moment.
You will have an opportunity to discuss this more fully and if you live in Langport or Huish, you’ll probably want to be there. “There” in this instance is a Town Assembly to be held on Saturday 13th October at the Ridgway Hall with only one item on the agenda – the Hanging Chapel. The meeting will commence at 1.30pm.
The Town Trust – what you need to know
Apologies but we now need to look at numbers.
Langport Town Trust as of the end of 2017 had a total of £63k in cash – but of this it is holding £30.5 on behalf of the Bagehot Memorial Fund, money which the September Trust meeting agreed to transfer to the Langport & District History Society. So there is £33k left.
During 2016/17 the trust was only able to meet its expenses by selling £43k of investments. That leaves it with just £12k in investments.
In the year 2016/17 the trust had expenses of £63k and income (excluding the one of sale of investments) of £34k. In other words without the sale of investments it would have had a shortfall of £29k.
With £33k in the bank and 12k in investments it should have been able to struggle through 2017/18 but those accounts have yet to be filed. The prognosis for 2018/19 does not look good.
Put simply the trust is almost out of cash and is running a large deficit.
It is not clear how the Trust can fund its ongoing commitments as it is and that is before contemplating the possibility of a large repair bill for the Hanging Chapel. Is a sale of the Chapel a possibility once again? It is hard to imagine that option will not be put on the table.
We were informed this morning (24th September) that Langport Town Council were not happy with the content of this post. They state that “Figures were discussed at the meeting (by Cllr S Jenkinson) and councillors noted that the report had only just been received and therefore, needed more consideration before a more in-depth discussion could take place.“