An extensive programme of development and refurbishment is to be undertaken at Penarth Town Council’s HQ at West House on Stanwell Road – a building which – over the years – local council-tax and rate-payers have already had to buy twice-over .
From this summer, council office staff will occupy the whole of the first floor of West House to enable its “expanded staff structure to work more efficiently and deliver increased service provision to Penarth” . Existing tenants on the first floor will be decanted into West House Cottage.
So that members of the public with “mobility issues” can access the first floor offices, a “cabin lift” is to be installed on the ground-floor foyer of West House to convey visitors to the first floor of the building.
Meanwhile the front inner doors of West House are to be mechanised so that they open automatically when approached – and it will no longer necessary to push the doors open. The council says this will make access easier for visitors in wheelchairs or with prams.
The total cost of internal modifications – including the new lift – will be £32,083 . However council documents state that “overall £100,000 can be realised in earmarked reserves for these works in total “.
Meanwhile a further £9,270 is to be spent on redecorating and improving “West House Cottage” – a two storey structure in the rear car park which can’t be seen from Stanwell Road. This building – leased to Penarth Town Council by the Vale of Glamorgan Council – has lain empty and unused for almost two years . The funding for the development is to come from “earmarked reserves”.
Penarth Town Council had been leasing the West House Cottage from the Vale of Glamorgan Council for £1,000 a month under a 10-year deal which started in 2008. In March 2014 however an “early redemption settlement” was to have been negotiated – meaning that Penarth Town Council was owed £25,000. It’s yet to be clarified why Penarth Town Council now has any obligation whatever to refurbish West House Cottage .
A further building “West House Annexe” – a “modern” grey brick building on the right hand side of West House is to be rented out to what’s described as a “co-working company” on a “pay-per-desk” basis.
By letting out the two subsidiary buildings “West House Cottage” and “West House Annexe” , Penarth Town Council says it will be saving an annual total of £10,328 which it is currently charged in non-domestic rates by the Vale of Glamorgan Council.
West House itself was redecorated and refurnished in 2014 in the hope that it would become a successful licensed weddings venue – but it has yet to meet the forecast number of ceremonies.
WHY PENARTH RESIDENTS HAD TO PAY TWICE FOR WEST HOUSE
In the last major round of local government reorganisation in 1974, the assets of the old Penarth Urban District Council – including its headquarters at West House – were all transferred without recompense to the now defunct South Glamorgan County Council and the Vale of Glamorgan Council – leaving the newly-downgraded Penarth Town Council having to pay rent to occupy West House – which it had formerly owned.
Penarth Town Council tried to regain the ownership of its own headquarters but the Vale of Glamorgan Council wouldn’t play ball – claiming that the “new” Penarth Town Council wasn’t the same authority as the old – and defunct – Penarth Urban District Council.
Penarth Town Council had no option but to raise money (from council-tax payers) to buy-back its own headquarters in a £95,000 deal on a “deferred purchase agreement” . The deal however only applied to West House itself. The Vale Council held-on to the rear car park which it had also acquired free of charge in 1974. When, in 1998, Penarth Town Council offered to buy the car park, the Vale demanded £20,000 for it – which Penarth Town Council paid.
This left the Vale still owning “West House Cottage”which Penarth Town Council had then partially leased and was supposed to have returned to the Vale.
Both the original purchase of (and the subsequent re-purchase of) – West House were paid for by the residents of Penarth via a precept on the council tax or rates . In effect Penarthians were made to pay-up twice for the same building.