Before publishing the article ‘Riverside Centre: Has council chief been personally vetting bookings? If so, why?‘ last Wednesday, we wrote to Steve Beynon find out what level of involvement he had had with bookings at Riverside.
Below is the email back and forth we had with him.
Quick summary – IWC claims to be in “positive discussions” with Riverside Centre Limited and that it’s been agreed that the building lease says it should only be used for the disabled. The council can’t vary these terms. New bookings have to comply with the terms. Existing ones can continue. Things may change in the New Year.
A couple of questions remain unanswered, like – Previously there haven’t been problems with these bookings, so what’s changed?
Steve didn’t dispute that he was personally involved with the selection/rejection of those wanting to book. The question of if that was best use of his time remained unanswered, despite being asked more than once.
Here are the details of the communications we had over it.
The following was sent to Steve –
Understand that you or Mr Burbage are personally approving each booking made at the Riverside Centre.
Couple of questions – 1) Is this the case; 2) How long has it been happening; 3) Why is it happening?; 4) Aren’t they independent?; 5) Is that really best use of your time?
and this reply was received the next morning (Thursday) from the council’s press office.
As widely reported, the council as owner of the Riverside Centre has been discussing the centre’s current and future running with the Riverside Centre Limited, which leases the building.
As part of these positive discussions, we have agreed that in the short term at least, the use of the building should only be in accordance with the current lease which says the centre should be used solely as a multi-purpose centre for the disabled.
As landlord, the council cannot authorise variations from that lease, however well intentioned those variations are.
While applying the terms of the original lease in respect of new bookings, all existing bookings are being honoured and no booked functions have been cancelled.
In the New Year, we will be consulting upon how a new lease could both enable the centre to provide the amenities for which it was intended and also host other activities in support of this core aim.
This was then sent to Steve
If what is below is correct, why is it just being implemented now? It’s widely-known that the Riverside has been taking booking from all sorts of organisations for years. What has changed?
As this is a matter jointly with Riverside Centre limited a press release agreed from both sides was appropriate rather than individual comment.
Request for information on such matters would normally be routed through the media team as other media outlets do as a matter of course. Both sides have agreed to extended mediation process to cover lease issues so there is no outcome to report at this stage.
This was then sent to Steve
Steve – As you haven’t disputed that you’re personally involved with the selection/rejection of who are allowed to book rooms at the Riverside, would you mind answering one of our original questions – Is that really best use of your valuable time?
Same for the other questions that escaped being answered – The response from IWC said, “As landlord, the council cannot authorise variations from that lease, however well intentioned those variations are.” If this is correct, why is it just being implemented now? It’s widely-known that the Riverside has been taking bookings from all sorts of organisations for years. What has changed?
Steve’s final reply
As I previously stated we are continuing with the mediation process and so detailed comments will not be made while this process is in train.