The Barham Trust minutes are now out and confirm what I had already heard, that the councillors on the committee weakly allowed Paul Lorber to browbeat them into giving him rent free space after he had previously agreed to pay rent on it.
It is interesting that that Mr Philip Bromberg of the Preston Library group also spoke. Of course he has no direct interest in the Barham site, but I have no doubt he will use the rent free access for a group at Barham to argue for rent free access for his group at Preston. It would be greatly surprising if other groups don't argue for rent free arrangements for themselves in other buildings. Thus, the Barham Trust Committee is setting up a situation where groups are given privileged access to Council buildings at taxpayers expense, and public services are cut further as a result.
Any attempt to resist such pressures will be met with accusations of bias, and of course the number of groups that might make such a demand is practically limitless. Indeed groups that currently pay the Council rent might well ask why they are doing so.
The consequences of the decision are therefore considerably more extensive than just the Barham Trust, and likely to lead to political controversies in future.
As well as being bad budgeting and bad politics, I suspect it is also bad law. As a loss making Trust, cutting the Trust income without any indication that you are doing so for the objectives of the Trust probably puts the councillors in a dodgy position legally.
What a sorry mess.