A recurring themes that runs through recent Shiptonthorpe parish council meetings has been the claim that the former parish council intended to charge the village hall committee a ‘commercial rent’. Someone even suggested that they were planning to charge £12,000 a year.

I had never seen anything in writing to prove this, so I wrote to the current council chairman who replied on 17 August 2023:

“Your question regarding the commercial rent for the Village Hall lease will be apparent when the FOI is returned. One of this fact based items of evidence is in a formal response to a residents complaint that clearly states the Parish Council was treating the Village Hall lease as a commercial contract. The definition of commercial as you will know is making or intending to make a profit”.

(Fact – when the FOI was returned none of my questions relating to the lease were answered)

Download my FOI request here.
Download FOI response here.

The fact-based items mentioned above are the two sets of notes which are available on the council website. (You can download them here October note and January note) I have read through these notes several times and done a word search. Neither the word commercial or contract appears in either of them.

The note from a meeting of the former ‘Village Hall Lease Working Group’ dated 16 January 2023 states:

1. The PC must recover a “reasonable rent”. It was agreed that the Clerk would email other local village halls to ask them about their scales of charge.
The Clerk contacted Sancton, Newbald, Little Weighton and Middleton on the Wolds and received some quite abrupt responses. It appears that the majority of councils do not charge their committees rent. After some discussion it was agreed to keep the rent at £1.00 per year.

It is possible to claim the use of the phrase ‘reasonable rent’ suggests a higher rent but maybe this deserves further consideration.
The Oxford dictionary defines ‘reasonable’ as: as much as is appropriate or fair; moderate.

No evidence has yet been produced to suggest the former council were going to charge more than £1 a year rent.

Ii is possible that more evidence may yet come to light as I see in the village newsletter that the new council have reported non compliance issues with the information commissioners office and ERYC.

When the response to my ‘commercial rent’ FOI request dated 15 August was returned to me by post it stated that because the lease is between the ‘Shiptonthorpe Parish Council Charity’ and the ‘Village Hall Charity’ no information could be provided because charities are not subject to FOI requirements. The letter was not signed so I do not know who wrote it.

When the previous council did not provide information about ongoing lease discussions, they were accused by a village hall trustee of “lying, hiding the truth and attempted cover up”.

According to the village newsletter the current council have reported the previous council to the information commissioners office and East Yorkshire Council for non compliance issues. Given that only one former councillor has kept his seat and the former clerk has resigned it is unclear what they hope to achieve in doing this.


  • The working group were asked to consider relevant aspects of the lease renewal by the full Parish Council.
  • The group considered the annual rental charge to the village hall committee and in doing so did some research.
  • In January 2023 they decided to recommend an annual rent of £1 a year. No increase on the last 40 years.
  • The current council has released two documents thus far to support the claim that it was planned to charge a commercial rent. Neither document includes the word commercial.
  • To date and despite requests I have not seen any evidence to support claims that the parish council was going to increase the rent from £1 a year.
  • The current Parish council have said they cannot respond to my FOI requests about the village hall lease because charities are not subject to FOI requirements.
  • A PC spokesperson has said more evidence will become available in due course.

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