A heated debate arose at the Ross-on-Wye Town Council meeting on Monday, April 8th when Councillor Caroline Bennett asked the councillors to consider transferring the ownership of cinema equipment, which was purchased by the Town Council, to the Phoenix Theatre. This proposal was put forward to allow the continuation of the provision of a cinema facility in Ross-on-Wye, as the group which has been showing films at the Theatre is closing.

Councillor Bennett said: “I have attended several meetings over the last four months with the Cinema Group. When it became clear they could not offer the services in the way that they used to, we looked for a way forward. We looked for new volunteers and things like that, and then the Theatre came to us with an offer to take over the running of cinema.”

As well as the equipment, the Phoenix Theatre will also be given £4000 from the Cinema Group, which is their profit from their film nights.

Councillor Daniel Lister said that he was uncomfortable with the idea of gifting the Theatre with something the Town Council had originally paid for. He said: “It doesn’t feel right that we are giving this away - the equipment was paid for through tax payers’ money. Even if it’s not worth as much now, what if they sell it? It’s not right that they could profit like that with something that was purchased through tax payers’ money.”

Councillor Chris Bartrum showed his agreement with Councillor Lister’s comment, saying: “Hear, hear.” He also suggested that the Council could not make a decision on such a matter anyhow because it contravened their financial regulations. He said: “We have not had any written evidence, a report in writing in respect of valuation, we’ve had no proper business case, and no adequate consultation.”

Councillor Phil Cutter said: “We are making a lot of fuss about how much it’s worth. Let’s just give it to them. Let’s get on with it. People in the town will benefit, so let’s get rid of it and get on with it.”

The Town Clerk confirmed that financial regulations could be waived providing a reason was embedded in the resolution. Four councillors voted against the motion, and two abstained. With the majority voting for the motion, the transfer of ownership was agreed.See this week’s paper for more stories like this, available in shops and as a Digital Edition now.