Friday, 17 August 2007
End of era for legion
Former war veterans have spoken of their anger at being ‘forced’ out of their Royal British Legion base.The Droylsden club for servicemen has now closed after it was unable to pay escalating costs for the room members have used in the Concord Suite for 14 years.They have now been left looking for a new base for the Legion in the town after handing the keys over on Tuesday morning.Chairman Victor Pickering said: “They more or less forced us out by pricing us out.“Everyone is upset about it, there are still a lot of old soldiers who come in here and there is a feeling that this place is part of their lives.“Everyone we’ve spoken to is saddened by the news.”The problems arose after discrepancies over the gas, electric and water bills.Members of the RBL were not aware of the escalating costs until they were told they owed £17,000.Mr Pickering added: “It was only when they came down and said we owed them £17,000 when we realised the extent of the problems.“We were paying 65 per cent of the utility bills for this building, which is excessive because we only have one floor.“The next time we heard from them it had gone up to £22,000, then £26,000 and then all of a sudden this year’s was £38,000.“We just don’t have the money to pay them and we can’t get it.“They said if we gave the club up they will scrap the debt. In the end we decided to just shut the doors altogether.”Despite the backing of MP David Heyes, the former servicemen are now having to look for a new base in the town.Members of the RBL were formerly based in the Toll Bar House until the council asked them to move into the premises, making the room suitable at their own expense.Mr Pickering said: “It cost us a lot of money to have it altered.“But we don’t have all this money spare for the building or to hire the rooms out. They’ll have to re-coup the money somehow, so how will they do that?”Mr Pickering handed over the keys on Tuesday morning, leaving the former servicemen without a base in the town for over a decade.A spokesperson for Tameside Council said: “The council and the regional branch of the Royal British Legion, who grant a licence for the club to operate, have worked very closely over the past two years to assist and advise Droylsden Royal British Legion Club Ltd.“Nevertheless, the advice that has been offered has not been taken, hence the club’s current position. This has also not been helped by the frequent changes to the club’s governing committee, which has changed at least three times during the discussions.“In the circumstances, the club has confirmed that it cannot meet its financial obligations and therefore after extensive discussions, has voluntarily agreed to surrender its interest in the premises.”The Council has confirmed there were no plans to change the existing use of the building and that it would continue to honour all commitments to the existing users of the Concord Suite.