Beehive deal could be scuppered as fresh dispute arises following crunch talks
PUBLISHED: 12:05 30 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:17 30 October 2019
A £20,000 deal to safeguard Honiton's Beehive community centre in the short-term could be scuppered after a tense town council meeting saw a fresh dispute arise.
At Monday's meeting of Honiton Town Council (October 28), it was revealed that a letter was sent from Honiton Community Complex, the charity behind the Beehive, which disputed several points made in a report written up by council clerk Mark Tredwin.
Mr Tredwin's report was penned following a meeting between Honiton Town Council and Honiton Community Complex, held on October 17, which aimed to resolve a long-running dispute between the two parties.
The charity claims the town council owes it £40,000 as stated in a 10-year lease, signed in 2015.
The two parties have been locked in a dispute for more than two and a half years.
Following the meeting on October 17, both parties confirmed a deal had been struck, which would see Honiton Town Council provide £20,000 to Honiton Community Complex to assure that operations at The Beehive would carry on as normal in the short-term.
Mr Tredwin's report, put to councillors at Monday's meeting, recommended Honiton Town Council makes a payment of £20,000 to Honiton Community Complex which would settle outstanding lease payments up until September 30, 2019.
Speaking at Monday's meeting, Honiton mayor John Zarczynski said: "We thought we had an agreement... After reading the clerk's report, I felt confident that we could resolve this.
"Unfortunately, correspondence was received late on Friday that was circulated round which basically was contrary to what the clerk was recommending.
"The deal that the clerk proposed by no means scrapped the existing lease that they [Honiton Community Complex] have."
Cllr Zarczynski said the letter sent by Honiton Community Complex 'turned the whole thing upside down'.
He added: "What is being proposed this evening is we vote on this deal in principle and the money released would only be subject to Honiton Community Complex confirming in writing that they accept the deal."
Cllr Zarczynski said the council felt it would be 'dangerous' to simply hand Honiton Community Complex £20,000.
David Perkins, a director at Honiton Community Complex and former town councillor, said Mr Tredwin's report contained 'interpretations' of conversations held at the meeting between the two parties.
Mr Perkins said Honiton Community Complex had previously explained to the council that it needed substantial funds by the end of October, or it would take the 'necessary steps' to ensure it could pay its creditors and meet its day-to-day needs.
He said: "The decision is very critical to you - it's your choice.
"If you want to run The Beehive, then go ahead. But I want to make that absolutely plain to you. This is the clerk's interpretation of conversation."
Mr Perkins said it was agreed that Honiton Community Complex would take £20,000 in the short-term, but try to come to an arrangement in the long-term which would encapsulate the disputed amount.
Responding to Mr Perkins, Mr Tredwin said he had recorded the meeting and it was 'very clear' that the £20,000 was to settle everything up to September 30.
He said: "We do not have any more than the £20,000. We are offering that - that is how this needs to move forward.
"If you wish to scupper the deal, then that is entirely up to Honiton Community Complex."
Mr Tredwin said the parties need to be working collaboratively and moving forward.
Councillors were asked to vote on the clerk's motion, with a condition that Honiton Community Complex agrees to the deal in writing.
Before the vote was cast, Mr Perkins said it was the 'most important decision this council is going to make'.
He said: "In the short-term, we need that £20,000. Then it gives us the breathing space to work out what are we going to do about the long term.
"That long term would then resolve the disputed amount. If you can't agree a long-term deal by the end of this year, then the conclusion is exactly the same - you will have run The Beehive yourself."
Cllr Zarczynski said the council will 'cross that bridge when it comes to it'.
Honiton Town Council unanimously approved the motion.
Honiton Community Complex board members will meet tomorrow to discuss the motion.