Councillors reject calls for consultation on the future of St David’s Hall
Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter
A motion calling for a consultation on the future of a much-loved music venue in Cardiff has been voted down.
Cardiff Council met yesterday (December 9) to discuss a motion brought forward by the Liberal Democrats group on the future operation of St David’s Hall.
On top of calls for a public consultation on the future of the venue before a decision was made on Academy Music Group’s (AMG) proposal to take on the operation of the building, the motion called for:
A full business case justifying the consideration of AMG’s proposal to be published
A demonstration of how such a proposal would preserve the city’s cultural heritage
An exploration of alternative avenues for funding to maintain St David’s Hall and to clear its current maintenance backlog
The council has committed to a consultation should AMG’s proposal be accepted in principle. However, this consultation would follow the decision and would be part of the budget setting process.
Commenting on this, Liberal Democrat member for Penylan, Cllr Jon Shimmin, said he saw it “not a consultation on the future of the hall” but a “consultation on the budget.”
He added that the issue “deserves a full and proper consultation”.
Cardiff Council currently spends about £1 million per year in the running of St David’s Hall.
The allocated revenue subsidy from the Council for St David’s Hall is £688,700 in the current year.
With a budget deficit of £53 million, not having to pay a yearly subsidy towards the concert hall and and being freed from maintenance costs running into the millions would be a significant boost for the council.
However, there are concerns that the takeover of the hall could put its status as the main classical music venue for Cardiff and its revered acoustics at risk.
The leader of Cardiff Council, Cllr Huw Thomas, who said he had a “huge affection” for the venue, re-iterated the council’s assurance that the protection of the concert hall’s classical programme and acoustics would be an imperative under any proposal.
Shortly before the final vote which condemned the Lib Dems’ motion to defeat, Labour member, Cllr Leonora Thomson said the venue “needs the kind of investment that the council cannot make”.
However, she urged caution in relation to a possible deal with AMG.
Cllr Thomson added: “We need to be really clear on what we expect from AMG… we need to take expert legal advice.
“The devil is in the detail on this one. Who will pay for those seats to be put in and out?
“I do think that we need to, if necessary, take the time just to make sure that we nail that contract really carefully.”
The proposal put forward by AMG will be presented to a scrutiny committee before a decision is made by cabinet on whether or not to accept it in principle on Thursday December 15.
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