The new Deputy Mayor of Penarth Cllr Tracey Alexander (Labour Cornerswell) – has floated out the idea of setting up a new body – a registered charity to be called the “Penarth Town Trust”
Cllr Alexander resigned last week as a member of the executive committee of the Penarth Civic Society and now hopes the Civic Society will become a member of the proposed new Trust – along with other local organisations and individuals
Cllr Alexander revealed her Penarth Trust idea in a valedictory email to the members of the Penarth Civic Society . She told Civic Society members ” I have offered ideas that I hoped would change a dying society into one that could influence change and contribute to future regeneration and sustainability of services and projects, here in Penarth.
I now aim to realise these ideas, with others, through the new Penarth Town Trust.”
The embryo Penarth Town Trust may be an attempt to get around the problem presented when local retailers overwhelmingly voted down proposals to set up a “Penarth Business Improvement District” – or “Penarth BiD” which would have been funded by a proposed surcharge on the rates of commercial premises in the town. The Business Improvement District, it was asserted, would have been able to “attract grant funding from other sources” – as would the now-mooted Penarth Town Trust .
In Penarth’s case it’s more than likely that the proposed Headland Walkway would come under the wing of a Penarth Town Trust – as could any scheme to take over and run Penarth’s Turner House Gallery , which – although bequeathed to the people of Penarth – was handed over (by Penarth Town Council) to the National Museum of Wales and then leased to the publicly funded “charity” Ffotogallery.
Deputy Mayor Alexander says “It is my most sincere hope that the Penarth Civic Society will become members of the Trust to serve the areas that they represent, for Working in Partnership to enable like aims and objectives for the future of Penarth is something that can only be for the greater good.”
Town Trusts already operate in other UK towns and are basically “charities” run by boards of trustees who take on the responsibility for the upkeep of specific areas of their town (As the Penarth BiD might have done) for the benefit of the town and its residents as a whole.
Town Trusts can be eligible to receive funding from various public bodies and other so-called charities’ and therefore tap into the enormous amount of untapped and unowned cash – originally provided by the taxpayer – which is swilling around in the public sector and so-called “voluntary sector” .
Unlike local authorities Town Trusts don’t carry the overheads which councils do and therefore almost all the money trusts receive, or draw upon, would be expended – at least in theory – on the town itself.
One source said that a Penarth Town Trust could organise local events and street-fairs, look after street-trees (a particularly sensitive area in Penarth) , plant flowers, cut grass and so on – but would not be subject to the legal and financial constraints the Vale of Glamorgan and Penarth Town council – and would not have to pay for the enormous staff salaries, overheads and pensions that these councils are saddled with .
One town which already has such a trust, Alresford in Hampshire , says ” the work of the Trust lends a subtle layer of civic pride to the town” .
UPDATE: The Penarth Civic Society subsequently issued a statement ( see Comments Section below) saying that it had considered Cllr. Alexander’s proposal but had come to the view that “it would be very unlikely to be sustainable and would simply engage existing initiatives within the town in an additional and unwelcome level of bureacracy.” The Penarth Civic Society – it says “currently has no plans to participate in the Penarth Town Trust”.