Hundreds protest over plans to shut tourist centre
An estimated three hundred people staged a demonstration today (13 January) over plans to shut a tourist information centre.
Proposals drawn up by Caerphilly Council to save around £30 million next year could also see the art gallery Y Galeri and the public conveniences close.
Coffi Vista could be closed down, and the building in Caerphilly town centre leased to the private sector and staff redeployed as part of the council’s planned cost-cutting measures.
Staff were told an informal decision had been made by council bosses during a meeting with council officials last week, with the closure expected to be confirmed at a meeting later this month.
Councillor Lindsay Whittle, leader of the Plaid Cymru group on Caerphilly Council told protestors: “No one asked us whether we wanted to close this facility. They are saying they are going out to consultation. Consultation is not after a decision is made.”
He criticised the council and the Labour Cabinet for making an informal decision to shut the visitor centre and coffee without any proper democratic discussion. “Shame on the Cabinet,” he declared.
“This demonstration is telling the council that we want to save this much-needed and vital community facility. For everyone that came here today there are five or six more that were unable to make it.”
He said the protest also showed the support for Coffi Vista manager Martin Cook and staff at the shop.
“We intend to take this fight as far as possible,” he declared.
Speaking at the rally, Plaid Cymru Members of Senedd for South Wales East, Delyth Jewell and Peredur Owen Griffiths added: “This is the heart of the community. It’s a local asset that has to be saved – but this is more than being about one building, this is about the wider regeneration of Caerphilly town centre and the haphazard way that the council is going about it.
“It’s clear from the numbers that turned up today on such a cold day in the middle of January that people are fiercely proud of their town. The strength of feeling about this matter shows just how much the council has to change their minds and do so with urgency.”
Town Mayor Councillor Mike Prew said: “The protest is the largest in Caerphilly for almost 50 years since the Sex Pistols played in the town in 1976.”
More than 2,000 people have also signed a petition against the planned closure.
A spokesman for Caerphilly County Borough Council said: “The council is facing a budget shortfall of around £55 million over the next two years, so it is clear that we will need to make a number of difficult decisions in order to meet this significant financial challenge.
“A list of proposed budget savings will be announced over the coming weeks and these will be subject to a period of public consultation before the 2024/25 budget is agreed at the end of February.
“The council has a duty to protect the public purse and will be looking at a range of savings options, particularly services that are subject to high subsidy, are non-statutory or can be delivered in a different way.
“We would encourage the community to have their say at the appropriate time.”
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