M V Balmoral Fund Ltd – the company set-up to preserve the vintage passenger motor-ship “Balmoral” and bring her back into operation in the Bristol Channel in 2015 – is to receive a controversial £1,000 donation from Penarth Town Council .
The Balmoral Fund – which has now raised a total of £250,000 – had originally made a request for financial support from the council earlier this year ( see PDN http://tinyurl.com/nyo43zh).
When the Council’s Policy and Finance Committee had considered this in September Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) had wanted to see a commitment from the Balmoral Fund on the number of days it was planned to sail from Penarth in 2015 .
At the same meeting Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) wondered if the council had received “value for money” from the £1000 it had previously donated towards the cost of Waverley and Balmoral . He had hardly seen the Waverley this year – “it was expensive wasn’t it?” he said.
When the chairman Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines) had pointed out that councillors had been entertained on a trip aboard “Waverley” in 2013, Cllr Roberts had retorted “You have just made my mind up chair- with respect. If they want to try and sweet-talk councillors – this is public money – Penarth people’s money” . Cllr Roberts said he did not think sufficient value had been given to commit more money at this point.
A decision on a donation was deferred whilst the Town Clerk sought further information about the proposed pattern of sailings and the constitution of the MV Balmoral Fund Ltd.
In a Penarth Council meeting on October 1st this year the chairman, Cllr Mike Cuddy, (Labour StAugustines) had asked Cllr Roberts about the “pointed remarks” made in the Policy and Finance committee and asked him if he had now “reviewed his position“.
Cllr Roberts said he had been expressing those views “in respect of the knowledge I had at the time.” – but that after a casual discussion with a representative of the MV Balmoral Fund he had “changed his view” and now proposed Penarth Council should invite the chairman of the Balmoral Trust – who lives in Cardiff – to address the council and update them on Balmoral‘s situation.
A briefing on Balmoral and the MV Balmoral Fund was duly made in a special closed session of the Policy and Finance Committee this week and afterwards, in open session, councillors again debated whether or not to give financial support to the MV Balmoral Fund – the benefit being the restoration of a summer “pleasure steamer” service from Penarth Pier in 2015.
Cllr Roberts said the Balmoral Fund presentation had been “very enlightening and almost heart-warming in terms of the enthusiasm of what they want to do”. Cllr Roberts said the Fund members also appeared to have “quite a sound business plan” which would ensure that once Balmoral was sailing it would be a viable – if not profitable – business . Balmoral, he said would be based in the Bristol Channel and the company “saw Penarth as the key port for it”.
Cllr Roberts recommended that the Policy and Finance Committee should support it to the tune of £1,000 and also proposed the Council should “give any other support that we can give them in terms of going to other funding sources such as the Welsh Government, the Vale of Glamorgan Council or any other unitary authorities who may be able to support this “.
Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) wholeheartedly supported what Cllr Roberts had said – adding that Balmoral should be “encouraged to be around” when Penarth held its Summer Festival . There would be benefits all around to Penarth he said.
Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) noted that the Balmoral Fund representatives and told the council that night that they had now raised £250,000 – which “ is a very substantial sum of money”. The Fund had also already spoken to the Welsh Government “at the highest level”. However he felt that Penarth Council’s £1000 donation should be taken out of “general balances” rather than the council’s tourism fund . It was essential he said that “Penarth should be able to meet the challenges of more visitors coming here and be able to look after them” .
Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said Balmoral would be an “extra attraction – another reason why people will come” and agreed with Cllr Ernest that all the money should not come from the tourism budget.
Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) proposed taking half of the amount from the financial assistance budget and half from the tourism budget which would leave £1000 still in the tourism budget – using the general reserves “pot” as a back-up if needed at the end of the year .
The proposal was carried and MV Balmoral Fund Ltd will receive a £1,000 cheque and a letter of support from Penarth Town Council.