A CAMPAIGN has started for the reopening of the bar at Alresford Recreation Centre which closed sparking public anger about the town council’s control of its finances.
The bar at Alresford Recreation Centre (ARC) has shut and the chairman of Alresford Town Council Lisa Griffiths resigned – just two minutes into a public meeting last week.
Four other town councillors have also since resigned, Sam Kerr-Smiley, Keith Barrett, Ben Gower and Annie Saunders.
Sports clubs often use the facility, and it is especially popular with Alresford Rugby Club.
Chris Unsworth, a club member, said the closure is a massive blow to sports clubs in the town. He said the club has helped him combat depression thanks to its support and community spirit.
More than 630 people have signed an online petition calling for the bar to reopen.
Cllr Griffiths says she is upset at the town council for making the decision to close the bar, which means five people have lost their jobs, and the community has lost the facility.
She accused other councillors of leaking information about the closure to third parties.
Cllr Griffiths, who is a portfolio holder at Winchester City Council, said: “I resigned because I did not support the decision of the council.
“It was done in a democratic way but there was a move from councillors to close it anyway and they have been unloading costs on the ARC bar to make it sound like the business model is not right.”
Cllr Ernie Jeffs took over chairing the meeting after Cllr Griffiths left.
Alresford Town Council has been thrown into chaos recently.
The Chronicle reported how auditors have told the council to tighten procedures after a review revealed serious problems and the possibility of fraud.
BDO has highlighted a lack of control over aspects of civic operations, including the running of the Alresford Recreation Centre and its bar.
It expressed concern about the Imprest account, which had £417,000 over which the clerk, Stevie Kavanagh had sole control.
BDO in a six-page report said there was a lack of any control on wages, salary and employment contracts.
There have been calls for an investigation into the finances, with Robin Atkins, a former chairman of the town council and a qualified accountant, describing it as a “scandal”.
It is understood the temporary clerk, Karen Ross, who took over from Mrs Kavanagh has now resigned.
Meanwhile Hampshire County Councillor, Jackie Porter criticised Cllr Griffiths for leaving "everybody in the lurch."
She said: "I have been a parish councillor myself and you have to take the rough with the smooth and it was going to be a rough meeting, I am surprised she was going to leave the meeting at that point.
"There were a lot of people that wanted answers and she could have given those answers.
She said she is extremely concerned the bar closed at such short notice.
Alresford Town Council said in a statement that the bar suffered a number of financial failures before being managed by the authority.
An online petition states the importance of the ARC to the town.
It says: "The ARC has always been, and remains today, the welcoming hub of sports and recreation for the entire Alresford community. Sporting wise it is home to the Football, Rugby, Cricket, Tennis, Pool and Dart teams.
"It is also the only family-friendly, licensed premises in Alresford of its kind and is regularly used by the Jazz club, for Wedding receptions, birthday parties and other functions.
"The council must all be aware that these will not be viable without a licensed bar."