” I don’t know what answer you want out of me.” says the Leader of the Labour-run Vale of Glamorgan Council – Cllr Neil Moore (Labour Cadoc Ward) – as he is quizzed about his council’s role in the Penarth Pier Pavilion debacle and the financial crisis faced by the Pavilion tenants Penarth Arts & Crafts Ltd .
The Vale of Glamorgan Council admitted last night that it has held a number of discussions with Penarth Arts and Crafts Ltd – [the company to which the council has leased the Pavilion for 125 years] – that the latest meeting was held only this week – but that the company has refused to open its books to the council.
The statement flies in the face of the impression created up to now that the crisis in Penarth Arts and Crafts [a.k.a. PACL] has nothing really to do with its landlords, the Vale of Glamorgan Council . It’s now clear that, in fact, the council doing everything it can to try to prop up PACL.
The admission came from the Leader of the Labour-controlled Vale Council, Cllr Neil Moore (Labour Cadoc Ward Barry) in answer to a question from Cllr Kevin Mahoney (Independent Sully).
Cllr Kevin Mahoney (Independent Sully) asked for the Vale Council to put pressure on Penarth Arts and Crafts – leaseholders of the Penarth Pier Pavilion and Cinema – to come clean about its financial situation.
Cllr Mahoney had asked “Given the £900,000 already given by the Vale to the lessee of the Penarth Pier Pavilion [Penarth Arts and Crafts Ltd – a.k.a. PACL] , what meetings have been held between the Vale administration and Penarth Arts and Crafts Ltd since the latest crisis and reduction of opening hours of the pier, in order to establish what exactly is going on, and what conclusions have been come to in this matter?”
In reply Cllr Moore said that “discussions have taken place with the management of PACL to consider the long-term financial viability of the organisation – the latest of those discussion having taken place earlier this week”.
Cllr Moore went on to say “members may also be aware that PACL have recently been awarded grant funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund which is to provide essential financial support to the organisation whilst it looks to develop a sustainable business model for the future.”
The future of Penarth Pier Pavilion was raised at the last meeting of the Vale of Glamorgan Council to be held before the May 4th elections – when a new council will be elected.
Cllr Kevin Mahoney (Independent Sully) pushed for answers – but little new information was forthcoming
Cllr Mahoney came back with a supplementary question for Cllr Moore – pointing out that the grant – for £126,000 – was for “consultation over a period of 18 months” which he said was “an extraordinary amount of money“. “Surely – he said – “it’s got to be incumbent on the Vale to encourage, if not insist, that PACL adopt an immediate policy of openness and transparency in order to open up for examination and let everybody know what the problems are that they are facing”
Cllr Mahoney called PACL “clearly a failing organisation” . He urged that the reasons for the three-days-a-week closure of the Pavilion and the total closure of the Pavilion Cinema be fully explained to the public. Addressing the Labour administration, Cllr Mahoney said “surely it’s incumbent on you lot to insist that they actually come clean – because there’s just a veil of silence from these people” [i.e. PACL]
The Vale Council’s Labour Leader Cllr Neil Moore said PACL were not in breach of the terms of their lease on Penarth Pier Pavilion.
Cllr Moore replied “Well – ‘us lot’ have had discussions with them in the past . We’ve had discussions with them at the moment. We’ve had discussions with them this week. PACL has received £126,000 for the coming 18 months period . I’m not aware that there are any conditions or commitments attached to that . The funding as I understand it is to be used to access external professional advice on all aspects of the business in order for them to go forward .”
Cllr Moore went on to say “Now, they are a private organisation in essence. They are fully meeting the conditions of their lease and as such, the operation of the management of the organisation is purely a matter for their board – which is their controlling body.”
“Yes we will discuss with them, yes we will ask them to help them with their business case as we have done and we will continue to do – but what I would also say is that the £126,000 isn’t the Vale’s money – it’s come from the lottery system – so yes we will work with them . We can’t insist they open their books to us ; we would hope they would – but clearly we will work with them to the best ability so that they can continue to become a viable organisation. We can only do as much as we can .”
Turning to Cllr Mahoney, Cllr Moore said lamely ” I don’t know what answer you want out of me. We are working with them, we’ve been there, we’ve helped them, we’ve given them advice, we’ve assisted them with some of their bids, – and clearly if they weren’t a viable, as you suggest, I would have hoped – or would have thought – that they wouldn’t have received the grant-funding that they have – and clearly that is there for them to become a viable business…and hopefully they will do very quickly – if they’re not already”.
Only one supplementary question can be asked – so Cllr Mahoney could press the matter no further.
Peering over the top of her glasses, Deputy Leader Cllr Lis Burnett (Labour St Augustines) said “I’m not completely sure whether the point of the question is to get an answer – or to prove another opportunity to insult me!” . Her remark triggered collective groans from opposition councillors .
The most amusing moment in the meeting came however when Cllr Mahoney interrogated Labour’s Deputy Leader Cllr Lis Burnett (who has quit Penarth Council and is abandoning her seat in St Augustines in the hope of being elected for the Vale in Stanwell Ward next week) .
Cllr Mahoney asked if the council was engaging experts to investigate the potential health effects of the new incinerator at Barry on residents in the surrounding areas before any licence was issued for it .
Cllr Burnett alleged that Cllr Mahoney’s question had been “framed with a number of inaccurate statements” – and proceeded deliver a potted history of the contentious project in order to – as she put it- to “clarify” the background . [ The plant had originally been refused planning permission but that decision had been overturned in a planning appeal which had gone against the council and cost council-tax payers £60,000] .
Some councillors evidently disputed Cllr Burnett’s version of events. There were shouts of “That’s not right Kev!” in the council chamber – which were silenced by the Mayor.
Cllr Mahoney asserted that Cllr Burnett had “evaded once again” his question. “Yet again” – he accused Cllr Burnett – “you have gone off on one of your tangents – as if nobody noticed – there’s allegations of “misleading” ….”.
The Mayor Cllr Stuart Egan, who was presiding over his last council meeting, silenced Cllr Mahoney and cued Cllr Burnett to respond.
The ever-combative Cllr Burnett said “I’m not completely sure whether the point of the question is to get an answer or to prove another opportunity to insult me! “. At that remark, collective groans could be heard coming from opposition councillors around the chamber.
…It has indeed been a long 5 years in office for this particular Vale of Glamorgan Council administration.