In a dramatic announcement today the new Conservative-led Vale of Glamorgan Council has announced it is to “review” its lease of Penarth Pier Pavilion to the not-for-profit company/charity Penarth Arts and Crafts Ltd.
The move follows top-level talks between Bill Rees – the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Cardiff South and Penarth – who is a highly experienced corporate negotiator – and the leader of the new Conservative administration on the Vale of Glamorgan Council Cllr John Thomas.
[Penarth Arts and Crafts – also known as “PACL” – was given a 125 year lease on Penarth Pier Pavilion by the Vale of Glamorgan Council as a £4,200,000 restoration programme funded by both the Vale Council and by the National Lottery was carried out.
However in February this year the heavily-criticised company announced that from March 6th it would close the Pavilion to the public for three days out of every seven and would shut down the integral – 3-year-old – Pavilion Cinema indefinitely.
The decision raised a storm of protest and with the force of public opinion against him, PACL’s chairman Professor Tony Hazell had to partially row-back on his announcement and to vaguely promise some sort of possible re-opening of the cinema in “September” – but has not promised anything definite.]
Now , following a meeting with the Conservative Parliamentary candidate Cardiff South and Penarth Bill Rees, the Leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council – Cllr John Thomas – has said that his new Conservative administration will “review the lease” of the Penarth Pier Pavilion.
Bill Rees, who is aiming to become Cardiff South and Penarth’s Conservative MP in Thursday’s General Election, met with Cllr Thomas to raise the issue of the Pavilion and to discuss strengthening the local economy in Penarth.
Cllr Thomas, Leader of the new ruling Conservative Group on the Vale Council has agreed to review the lease granted to PACL, with a view to “ensuring that the leaseholders understand what is expected of them by the Council and by the public.”
Cllr Thomas says “Bill Rees underlined the importance of the Pier Pavillion to the community in Penarth at our recent meeting. He is clear that we must maximise the use of facilities such as the Pavillion to boost the local economy and the community and I totally agree.”
Cllr Thomas went on to say that “To that end, the Vale of Glamorgan Cabinet will review the Council’s lease to Penarth Arts and Crafts limited. This is to clarify the position, ensuring that leaseholders understand what is expected of them by the Council and the public. It also ensures that we are in a better position to take action if legal obligations are not met in future on either side of the lease.”
Bill Rees has said that his intervention in this issue is “not a one-off” and local people can expect to see a “more active MP” if he – rather than Labour candidate Stephen Doughty – is elected on Thursday. [ Doughty had claimed that he had talked to all parties involved in the Penarth Pier Pavilion issue, but in fact he got nowhere]
Conservative candidate Bill Rees remarked – somewhat pointedly – “I believe that MPs should not only be effective representatives in Westminster, but strong champions for the local community and the local economy. Cardiff South and Penarth needs a strong voice and an active MP.”
Mr Rees said today “Just over the boundary in the Vale of Glamorgan Alun Cairns manages to combine being an MP, a minister and a local champion. He takes the lead in tackling local issues, leading local campaigns and securing local investment. We need an MP who will do his best for the community here as well.”
Meanwhile at today’s first meeting of the Vale of Glamorgan cabinet, it was announced that Cllr Ben Gray – one of the two newly elected Conservative Vale of Glamorgan councillors for Plymouth Ward – has been nominated as the Vale’s new representative on the board of Penarth Arts and Crafts Ltd.
Cllr Gray’s appointment was formally announced by chairman and Leader of the Council – Cllr John Thomas who has now taken over the reins of power from the previous Labour administration led by Cllr Neil Moore. Cllr Gray was also elected last month for Plymouth Ward on Penarth Town Council .
At the same time the chairman of Penarth Arts and Crafts Ltd’ – Professor Tony Hazell appears to be trying to fend off growing public criticism of himself and his board by seeming to assert that neither the Vale of Glamorgan Council or Penarth Town Council have any automatic entitlement to place councillors as representatives on his board of directors.
Professor Hazell says it is entirely up to the directors of PACL whether to accept councillors as nominees on the PACL Board – and if they ARE accepted , they are not there as representatives of either council – and must adhere to strict commercial confidentiality – [a move which, in effect, would prevent councillor nominees from reporting back to their respective councils]
In a letter to Chris Wyatt of Penarth Civic Society today – refusing to give a seat on the board to a director representing the Society – Professor Hazell says ” I must point out that no member of the Board is appointed to represent any organisation. This applies also to the two Trustees ‘nominated’ by the two local authorities. The Board has the right to accept or reject any such nomination and guidance from the Charity Commission and from the leading law firm in Wales, advising on charitable governance, makes it clear that any Trustee nominated by a local authority is not a representative of that local authority and must abide by all formal requirements of any Trustee, not least in respect of confidentiality. “
Insiders say that the PACL policy as set out in Professor Hazell’s letter appears to put him in direct conflict with the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Penarth Town Council, and his position may now be becoming untenable.