A wholly-new ‘Penarth Town Charity’ – to be registered under the Charities Commission – may be set up by the Labour-controlled Penarth Town Council in what would – in essence – be an additional-revenue raising body, working semi-independently of the council itself.
The idea – floated out in a formal internal council report – has been already discussed by councillors in the last full meeting of the council before the August break.
The council report says the council’s “Charitable Organisation” would be set up “for the purpose of increasing potential income streams for future projects that members may wish to develop for the benefit of the local community”
The proposal appears to have been kept under wraps until after May 4th’s council elections were out of the way (in which Labour retained control of the Town Council).
Critics say that because the proposed charity appears not to have been mentioned in any election literature as part of the Labour Party’s manifesto for the town, the council cannot claim to have any public mandate to institute the such a scheme.
An internal council report has recommended that the council’s Policy, Innovations and Development Committee should examine the potential benefits and possible risks inherent in the creation of a charitable body.
The report says the committee would need to decide on what sort of charitable organisation is most appropriate for the council and “give consideration to future community involvement” .
It’s being envisaged that the new charity would take over the functions of the council’s un-elected and controversial “Interim Momentum Group” [later re-named the “Future Projects Partnership Group”].
The ‘Momentum Group’ is the shadowy body set up by the council in 2015 which designed and installed the much-criticised “Penarth Bench” outside Barclays Bank.
The Group also initiated the “Penarth in Bloom” project which involved installing wooden planter-boxes on the lawn of West House and on pavements around the town centre and also carried out a spruce up of the Arcot St “Triangle” – the state of which had been raised in full council by former Cllr Anthony Ernest .
There was public criticism of the Momentum Group, and the undemocratic basis on which it had been set up, because – even though it was a council-appointed body – it was difficult to establish what the group was actually doing:-
- It was not possible to discover how people had been “selected” to sit on it,
- Unlike other council committees which – by law – are open to the press and public, the meetings of the Momentum Group (apparently held once a month) were closed to the press and public.
- The group published no minutes of its proceedings.
The council now admits that “more needs to be done in this area” and says that “updates” are now posted on the PTC – Penarth Town Council – website.
However it now appears there are other problems in the Momentum Group . Penarth Town Council’s report says the “numbers of active group members are dwindling and the make-up of the group is now demographically and gender imbalanced” .
The council report also says “projects discussed by the group are not achievable due to budgetary constraints – in turn leading to a loss of motivation” in some members of the Group.
The council now says the Momentum Group has come up with the idea of replacing itself with a “charitable body – administered by the Town Council” . Penarth Town Council claims that “many local councils are now moving in this direction” as it allows these councils to apply for “funding and commercial sponsorship via their charitable arms that they could not otherwise access”
Amongst the projects that the council envisages a new Momentum/Penarth Town Council Charitable Organisation could undertake could be: –
- Development of the existing assets of Penarth Town Council – i.e the Kymin, West House, the Paget Rooms and the Cemetery [ The allotments are not mentioned]
- Improvement of public spaces i.e. The Esplanade, “Gateways”, Open Spaces” [These are currently all Vale of Glamorgan Council responsibilities]
- Promotion of the town as a heritage and cultural tourist destination
- “Engagement” with the Vale of Glamorgan Council “Re-shaping Services Agenda”
[ PDN Note: The existing Momentum Group/Future Projects Group is plugged into the Penarth Town Council’s equally-secretive Strategic Review Group – which is comprised of mostly Labour councillors and which does not allow its minutes to read by the public.
The Strategic Review Group – it turns out – held a meeting in December last year with another secretive body – the unelected, so-called Headland Link Group which runs Penarth Headland Link Ltd . The meeting was provided with “updates” on the progress of a feasibility study for the contentious Penarth Headland Link scheme. The minutes of that meeting and the “updates” have not been made public.]