ELLESMERE councillors will be asked to come up with ideas allowing for the town hall to remain in community hands after a public meeting on Monday.

Around 80 residents attended the meeting at the town hall, called by Ellesmere Town Council, to put forward ideas, suggestions and feedback following a consultation on whether offices could be moved to the nearby former library building.

The council hopes that the building would then be taken over by a new tenant on a leasehold basis, paying the council for its long-term use.

Councillors will meet on Thursday, May 9 to discuss any agenda item arising from Monday’s meeting concerning how the council can best boost its income to cover spiralling costs.

The meeting, opened by current town mayor Councillor Anne Wignall, was at times spiky as residents spoke against a tenant taking on the lease.

Alan Clarke, a former mayor who secured the building for £1 in 2005, said he felt ‘angry’ at the thought of selling the building, which councillors say is costing the taxpayer an extra £60,000 a year in increased maintenance costs.

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He added that he "would understand the leasehold move" but that that also disappointed him, and he called for greater protection of staff.

Both Cllr Wignall and Cllr Graham Hutchinson, deputy mayor and chairman of the finance committee, told the meeting that the building would not be closed.

But Cllr Hutchinson set out the financial pressures the council is under with more money to be spent to repair the roof plus a near 50 per cent increase in utility bills, along with the routine cost of wages.

He told attendees that a choice faced by Ellesmere is whether to sell/lease and move or stay and make alterations.

He highlighted the cramped working conditions faced by town clerk Joanne Butterworth and her staff, which are also devoid of natural daylight.

Questions from the floor to councillors included whether any interest had be shown, which the panel confirmed there had been, while another asked what contingency plans were in place in case no comes forward.

Cllr Hutchinson said that alterations to the building would then be considered.

The panel also added, through Cllr Geoff Elner, that all ways to raise funds would be considered but that the council could not hold jumble says but also confirmed, when asked if it could be done, that rent for groups could rise.

However, Cllr Pete Jones told the meeting that previous rent increases had priced some groups out of using the town hall.

Councillors will now meet on Thursday. May 9 to consider all options with a ‘strong feeling’ from the meeting to remain at the town hall.