Council confirms review of grants paid to cinema embroiled in Covid pass row
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Swansea Council is to review some of the £52,000 of support grants provided to a cinema which has refused to ask customers for Covid passes, its leader has said.
Cllr Rob Stewart said if conditions of Covid grants had been breached, the authority would look to see if any of the money should be recovered.
His comments were in response to a question about Cinema & Co, which has been ordered to shut temporarily by Swansea Council and Welsh Government officials for not enforcing Covid pass regulations, at a meeting of full council.
Cllr Stewart said it was his understanding that the cinema and cafe had received £45,000, plus an outdoor adaptation grant, to help it get through the pandemic and help ensure its customers were safe.
“There has been a significant amount of support provided through the council and from the council for that business,” said Cllr Stewart.
It is understood the total figure is £52,862.17p.
“The council is and will continue to pursue all available legal options to ensure compliance protection of public health, which remains our top priority,” said the Swansea Labour leader.
“We are also reviewing all grants which relate to specific Covid support to assess if any of the grant conditions have been breached by non-compliance with the regulations, and as such whether any of the grants should be recovered as a result of any failures to comply with the regulations.”
Cllr Stewart said the uncertainty surrounding the emergence of the new omicron variant made it “even more essential” for everyone to follow the rules and regulations to control the virus’s spread.
He paid tribute to the council’s enforcement teams who, he said, have been taking “the necessary lawful action” to ensure all businesses remained safe for their customers.
“We have only ever taken appropriate action and I think the intimidation and the harassment that some of our enforcement teams faced is unacceptable,” said Cllr Stewart.
“I would hope all members of council tonight join me in thanking our teams for the very, very difficult action they have needed to take in very, very difficult circumstances.”
Cinema & Co, Castle Street, had been told to shut for maximum of 28 days because it would not enforce the Wales-wide Covid pass scheme, which began applying to cinemas, theatres, and concert halls last month.
The 56-seater venue said it would “take a stand” against the new measures, calling them “discriminatory and unlawful”.
The venue’s owner, Anna Redfern, reopened the following day, claiming the action against her was “unlawful” and that she needed to provide for her family.
The council then took the case to Swansea Magistrates’ Court and, at a hearing this week, district judge Neal Thomas said he was satisfied the local authority’s application had been properly brought under the Public Health Act and granted it as requested.
He said: “It’s clear from the evidence the local authority is trying to do no more than their job. To try and reduce the risk of a transmission of a disease.”
The court heard environmental health officers had visited Cinema & Co and found no Covid risk assessment had been carried out and that there was no hand sanitiser or proper hand washing facilities.
Ms Redfern was told to pay the council’s legal costs of £5,265.
But Cinema & Co reopened the following day.
A “closed” sign, along with messages of support, was on the door of the independent venue on the afternoon of December 3.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted Ms Redfern but did not receive a response at the time of going to press.