TOWN hall managers have been accused of running the landmark building into the ground after a thief targeted an art exhibition.
On Monday, volunteers manning Dewsbury Arts Group’s annual exhibition found around £30 had been swiped.
The theft of money collected through programme sales has added to concerns about council staff moving out to other sites and an apparent reluctance to support events by local groups.
During public questions on Tuesday, arts group chairman David Wood MBE said: “Why is it there seems to have been a decision to empty the town hall of administrative offices and to discourage the holding of events by local organisations.”
He said town hall management hampered events by refusing to allow advertising banners on the building and keeping the main gated entrance locked even when events were open.
Commitee chairman Masood Ahmed (Lab, Dews South) said English Heritage had put restrictions on the banners which could be displayed following the building’s refurbishment.
He added that the main door was not opened for many events now because of the cost of stewards for the building.
But Mr Wood and others members of the public were unwilling to accept his response.
Mount Tabor Community Church pastor Bob Brown said he had free reign to wander the building the previous week after mixing up the date and venue for the committee meeting.
“There was nobody in there at all,” he said. “I had the run of the building. I could have stolen anything.”
One woman asked: “Who are these heritage people who can tell Dewsbury Arts Group that they can’t put a banner on Dewsbury Town Hall?”
Coun Eric Firth (Lab, Dews East) gave assurances that the aim was still to make the town hall a focal point for events and community celebrations.
“Plans are afoot to revitalise and bring in all kinds of activity into the town hall in future,” he said. “For example, the register office will be moving into the building.”
He said he had raised the banner issue and would arrange a meeting between the group and town hall management.