THE future of Bury Council’s civic venues could be under threat with a consultation set to decide whether they could be closed permanently.

Council bosses currently operate three venues - Ramsbottom Civic Hall, The Longfield Suite in Prestwich and The Elizabethan Suite at Bury Town Hall.

All are currently closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, but before the pandemic they regularly hosted community events, weddings, dances, live music and corporate events.

Town hall chiefs are set to investigate the possible closure of the civic venue service, with a consultation expected to begin this month.

The decision notice reads: “No decision to close the civic halls has been made. The civic venue team propose that they begin a public and stakeholder consultation at the beginning of January.

“This will ensure all engagement with stakeholders is positive and within the longest possible time period to allow for cancellation or moving the bookings to alternative venues."

Questionnaires will identify and assess alternative venues, activities and events to mirror the service's role.

Despite the pandemic, it is still possible to book venues for dates later in the year with the civic hall currently advertising live gigs for September.

The document adds: “The civic venue team will consult with current long term bookings to organise alternative venues and/or to assist with cancellation to minimise the upheaval and reduce negative feedback.

“Where appropriate, if bookings are required to move, they will remain in council owned and operated venues including leisure centres, libraries and Adult Learning.”

The council’s cabinet in November agreed a budget report which included the possible closure of all three venues to generate savings of around £250,000 a year and avoid future costs.

Residents are now being urged to take part in the eight-week consultation survey and put forward their views.

People will be asked how often they use the civic halls and for what activity - and why they don’t use them – and what their ideas are on alternative uses of the halls.

Cllr David Jones, cabinet member for communities and emergency planning, said: “Our civic halls are well established in town centres across the borough, but they are losing a significant amount of money every year and will also require huge sums to maintain and improve them. This is money which the council simply doesn’t have, after a decade of austerity and the financial challenges now facing us as we try to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is important to acknowledge that, even if the council can no longer afford to operate this service, alternative uses may come forward from local businesses or the community. The Elizabethan Suite and Ramsbottom Civic Hall are both currently being used as Covid vaccination centres, for example.

“Equally, through our regeneration plans for each area, new opportunities may arise that can use these spaces in different ways.

“Let me be clear – no decisions have been made yet, which is why we want the public to take part on the consultation and give us their views on the best way forward for these venues.”

Eddie Jones, Friends of Ramsbottom Civic Hall chairman, said he was “concerned at the potential threat".

Mr Jones said: “The current  situation, mirrored across the country as the result of the pandemic, threatens the finances,  maintenance and use of halls at a time when finance will  be limited.   “The use of such venues by the local community helping to provide shared facilities, supporting  community spirit and planning for their future wellbeing is all the more important, as evidenced by the current use of the hall as a venue for Covid vaccinations.

"The Friends of Ramsbottom Civic Hall have for many years acted to support the Civic Hall, helping to promote understanding of and use of the Hall and to act with the Council to encourage maintenance and development over the years.    "The story, against a background of uncertainty as the venue has been regularly considered for savings and closure has been a positive one, the Group entering a formal partnership with the Council to help to maintain the facility.

"We are concerned at the potential threat to the venue and hope that local people will rise to the need of the community and help maintain the popular facility."

John Leyland, secretary of Ramsbottom Heritage Society, added: "The Ramsbottom Heritage Society have used Ramsbottom Civic Hall for many years, both as a monthly venue for our public meetings, but also for holding exhibitions.  "I cannot think of an alternative council owned building in Ramsbottom that would accommodate our meetings which can attract 50 members, so we would have to find an alternative private venue.

"The Civic Hall is also well used for  Sunday markets, craft fairs, weddings, music evenings, dance groups, exercise classes, amongst others, and there is no alternative venue of a similar size that could relocate all these activities.

"I can’t see how closing the Civic Hall aligns with proposals to improve Ramsbottom and attract more visitors."

The consultation runs until March 17 and the survey is on the One Community website at