Readers will remember that at the last Cabinet meeting, Cowes resident Tanja Rebel posed a question to Cllr David Pugh over the Riverside Centre. After refuting claims made by Ms Rebel, the council leader asked her to put her question in writing. Last week Ms Rebel sent her letter with questions to Cllr Pugh and shares that now with readers below. Ed
Further to the Cabinet Meeting of Tuesday 12th February 2013, and for asking me to put in writing the concerns I raised, as well as your commitment to provide an open and transparent response.
In order to help with this I have also appended a verbatim transcript of your interview with Tom Stroud on IW Radio on December 3rd 2012, with an audio copy still available on the Website.
My specific questions are:
1/ Given that you said ‘We have made clear as a Council aren’t going to get drawn into what any of those sub-lease arrangements are because that is a matter for them’ and ‘I have made clear that any issues of tenancy are between the current main tenant Riverside Centre Limited and any sub-tenants’
Qi/ Has the Local Authority made any threats of action against either the Riverside Centre or the Island’s MP in respect of his Office at the Centre?
Qii/ In the spirit of openness and transparency can the Document referred to in the County Press of 25th January 2013, that confirmed that Mr Beynon was ‘poised to take action’ be made available, together with any further relevant documents (I assume that all Councillors have received copies);
Qiii/ Given your concerns re sub-leases, can you publish details of the sub-lease that must exist between IW Council and Dave Burbage Limited, which enables them to use the offices of the IW Council and that Company’s use of other IWC Resources?
Qiv/ Can we have a full list of the existing users of the building that do not meet ‘that original stated purpose’?
2/ ‘It’s clear for example Newport Parish Council have their offices that doesn’t meet the terms of what the building was provided for’
Qi/ What is the Council policy re Parish/Town Councils using IW Council buildings (NB Many Town/Parish councils use IWC facilities, Ryde Town Council were based in Ryde Theatre/Town Hall, Ventnor in the Winter Gardens, and the list goes on)?
Qii/ I read that IWC were offering IW Association of Local Councils free use of County Hall, can you publish the policy on this?
3/ ‘The Riverside Centre should be a community hub which is multi-purpose for the disabled’
Qi/ How is not having the MP or Newport Parish Council, or the other organisations at the Centre, not providing a community hub. Can we have a straightforward definition of your vision of a community hub and where it differs from what happens now?
Qii/ Please can I have your definition of disabled. How is this definition written into criteria for bookings now and in the future?
Qiii/ How does ‘Help for Heroes’ not meet that definition or criteria? Could you list what ancilliary use is
Qiv/ Did the Local Authority stop the Riverside Centre hosting the Island’s Independent Living Centre? Isn’t that the sort of thing the Riverside should host?
4/ ‘requirement under the lease’
Qi/ Did the Local Authority receive £50,000 for an agreement that allowed variation of the lease to reflect its current use?
Qii/ Does that lease also state that the ‘rent would be reviewed should the grant funding be reduced so as to impact on the ability of the centre to meet the then current rent’ and has the Authority honoured this agreement?
Qiii/ Why doesn’t the Council just vary the lease to reflect the multi-purpose use of the Centre?
Thank you again for asking me to write down the specific concerns and I look forward to receiving a reply to the questions (yes or no will suffice), as well as a copy of the documents referred to.
IW Radio interview 3rd December 2013
Cllr David Pugh (DP and presenter Tom Stroud (TS)
TS: The Riverside Centre – What is going down there?
DP: The Riverside Centre was built at the end of the 80’s to be a principally multi-use purpose for the disabled and the council is currently in negotiations with the current trustees with the future of the building because we have done an audit of the building and it is clear there are a number of existing users of the building that don’t meet that original stated purpose and whilst we want to see it being a centre at the heart of the community we feel that there are other groups and organisations that provide services to disabled clients that should potentially be able to have the advantage of the facility. So there are some on-going negotiations I can’t go into a huge amount of further detail because the Council is looking at that with the building with the trustees but I’m confident that the outcome will see continuation of existing services and more.
TS: Can you give me an example of what is going on there that doesn’t meet what the Riverside Centre is there for as a community centre?
DP: I think Tom that in principle isn’t a bad thing because we had said very clearly that hiring it for other purposes for ancillary use so rather than the main purpose of the building can actually help those other activities taking place what I can’t go into because we are into negotiations with the trustees is talk about the details of the current use and how that may change we are happy to put that out once the process has concluded in the coming weeks. It’s clear for example, Newport Parish Council have there offices in there that does not meet the terms of what the building was provided for.
TS: But if I want to hire it out and have my record club their on the 3rd Thursday of each month and the venue is empty and I want to pay to use it, I should be allowed to do that shouldn’t I because I am putting money into it?
DP: Absolutely and we certainly believe longer term that kind of hiring is going to continue to compliment the use. What we’ve agreed with the Trustees at their request any bookings beyond a point early next year when the change may happen we don’t want to tie the hands of the future management by having lots of forward bookings that might preclude the use of some of that space for activities for disabled people. So that at the moment a number of bookings are on hold.
TS: Is this something that you are worried about because bookings are taken for things there should have been events going on for disabled. Has that actually happened?
DP: Not directly in the sense that room booking has taken place and the organisation has not been in there but the point of us in discussion with other groups and organisations is that there are other groups and organisations which provide services for disabled people who hire premises in Newport and elsewhere at commercial rents. Now from our point of view the opportunities for those organisations that provide a valuable service to such clients to use the facilities at the Riverside Centre on more favourable terms is going to make the services they offer to these people more affordable and more accessible. So I think the issue is yes no one has been held outside because because they can’t physically get in there but at the same time they have not been given the opportunity to hire that space because it has got a wider use and I think that I don’t think that anyone could reasonably disagree with our aspirations to see it restored more to its original purpose which is that multi-purpose centre use for the disabled.
TS: So just to be clear in your view what is the Riverside Centre for?
DP: The Riverside Centre should be a community hub which is multi-purpose for the disabled. I think it should have other ancillary use to complement that and also provide for integration amongst people from all sections of society but we must never dilute the principal use of it which is to support and be a very accessible venue for people with a range of disabilities.
TS: Is Andrew Turner ancillary use the Islands MP has his constituency office there presumably that’s an office that can be used by another group?
DP: Well it could potentially. What we have said to the Riverside Trustees is that any sub-leases or tenancies at wills that are currently in there are a matter for them to resolve and I understand that is what they are looking into. We as a council aren’t going to get into what any of the sub-lease arrangements are because that is a matter for them.
TS: Because the Riverside Centre isn’t run by the council?
DP: No its run by the Riverside Trustees but the requirement under the lease is that they do (TS: Because you own the building) the Council owns the building but the requirement under the lease which is currently being fulfilled to the extent it should be is that it’s a multi-use centre for the disabled and we want to see that re-stated.
TS: Are the council pushing Andrew Turner out?
DP: We certainly are not because I have made clear any issues of tenancy are a matter between the current main tenant Riverside Centre limited and any sub-tenants.