Trust unveils big-money plan to revamp Town Hall as it formally ends 45 years of council control.

Royal Sutton Coldfield Community Town Hall Trust was given the freehold to the central Sutton venue on Wednesday (April 3) by Birmingham City Council, with trust chair, Richard Mason, symbolically receiving the keys from city council leader, Ian Ward.

The ceremony - at the town hall saw dignitaries watch around 25 youngsters from Sutton Coldfield Musical Youth Theatre Company perform a fantastic Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat medley, before the official handover saw the building passed back to Suttonians, after city council ownership since 1974.

One of the main architects of the plan to save the town hall, Richard Mason, poignantly said: “A town isn't a town without a town hall." And it should not be forgotten that this venue was at risk - loss-making and crumbling, before Sutton Coldfield Arts and Recreation Trust took over the management reins - which has led to the venue's ‘busiest year in the past 12 months since 1990’.

Mr Mason said the handover marked ‘the end of a chapter in this much-loved Edwardian building’ After thanking all those that had helped set up Sutton Coldfield Arts and Recreational Trust and devise a plan to save the building, he said: “I'm confident its future looks good.”

City leader, Cllr Ward, said the venue had ‘improved remarkably’ since he had last visited the town hall and was ‘delighted’ that the trust that took over running the building was now in a position to take on the freehold. He said: "It was a team effort with special thanks to Richard Mason." As he handed the key to the building over, he said: “To mark this historic occasion I have a key. We are in an age of austerity so it's not a golden key! I am not sure what it's a key to but it looks like a key to a dungeon!" But far from a cell - the building has now been ‘freed’ from local. authority control opening up a raft of grant opportunities.

Andrew Mitchell MP had hotfooted it up from London, and away from votes on Brexit in Westminster, and said: “Today we see the completion of more than two years of negotiations and the transfer from the city council to the town hall trust. Local government finance is under very considerable constraint at the moment. Even if it was it is inconceivable that the city council could run a town hall like this.

“We want it to be in the future a real centre of activity for the community and want it to be the envy of the entire community across the region and the best town hall in the West Midlands. Somewhere people flock to.”

SCART, now RSCCTHT, has promised the get £3 million to £4 million of funding from grants, that simply were not available to the city council. The money will be used to modernise the building and make it a venue fit for the 21st century - as Mr Mitchell put it ‘the best town hall in the West Midlands’

After the handover ceremony came a plaque unveiling in the Sir Doug Ellis Bar - with the former Aston Villa chairman honoured, for one of his last legacies before his death last year – a £200,000 grant to help refurbish the town hall, with £50,000 spent on the new bar.

The new RSCCTI-IT board was announced Chairman Richard Mason, Claire Bridges, Russell Ludlam and Kevin Boyd. They have been joined by councillors Janet Cairns and Ewan Mackey representing Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council, plus David Pears, nominated by Birmingham City Council.

In addition, Andrew Mitchell MP is the honorary president of the trust.

℗ First published in the Sutton Coldfield Observer, April 5th 2019.