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Plas Madoc Gets Requested Funding As Executive Board Override Officer Advice

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Tuesday, Dec 13th, 2016.

Plas Madoc are to be given a £50,000 funding life line after Wrexham Council’s Executive Board ripped up proposals to decline the request.

Councillor Hugh Jones presented the report to Councillors this morning, initially as though it had been printed and made public – with no mention that the recommendations had changed.

Cllr Jones outlined the history of Plas Madoc and gave a detailed break down of discussions and financial information requested and what was provided.

He stated that comparisons with Waterworld was ‘not like for like’, as that was part of a wider leisure review adding that the Council had been persuaded by the Splash Magic Trust that they could run the building, but pointed out that was accepted as it stated ‘no cost to the council’.

History was reviewed on that point further with the startup being gifted £50,000 at the time as an agreed ‘one off payment’, on condition of ‘sound regime of financial governance and health and safety’.

On that point the Lead Member added: “It is also true to say in terms of issues with financial governance we had had some concerns, which were evidenced by the auditors report, which is something we have expressed to the Trust in face to face meetings.”

Cllr Jones read a large list of items provided by Wrexham Council in support, including £100,000 mothballing fees, the £50,000 and £70,000 in ‘capital equipment’.

He added he thought it was an ‘incredible achievement’ by the Trust to make a year one deficit of just £13k, “Nobody would say that was nothing other than an outstanding result.”

Not leaving out a pop at ‘a number of politicians’ who have pointed the finger at the Council for leaving the centre in a bad state, he said, “In the original report it stated the Trust were well aware of conditions, and of the equipment. They had been walked through centre with Officers, and were aware warts and all. There was no intent to hide anything.”

Doom and gloom was cast with the wider context of cuts facing Wrexham, some enacted and some likely in the future. This was then set with the ‘strong recommendation’ from the Head of Finance that it ‘would not be wise to make the £50,000 grant’.

With a flourish Councillor Jones jibed away from that wind, starting to state the positives of the number of jobs created, and volunteering opportunities now open. The Council’s wellbeing goals were cited, with relevant Welsh Government policies listed.

The Welsh Government grant of £500,000 was also ‘taken into account’, noting it had been referenced that people had said it was conditional on the Council’s £50k, but that was ‘nowhere in the letter’. A moot point perhaps, as without the £50k Plas Madoc would have likely closed, so although unwritten it was the reality.

At this point Cllr Jones said he was introducing some new recommendations, to approve the grant request.

Cllr Jones wrapped up saying: “I believe we have reached a position where we can offset concerns about financial issues raised and as elected members can justify recommendations we are making” adding it was “Important the capital is delivered from Welsh Government”.

Many other Councillors who are not the Executive Board had geared up to battle to save Plas Madoc by securing the £50k funding, with the ‘wind has been taken out of my sails’ phrase being used several times. Several Councillors appeared to have pre-prepared questions and statements ready for the initial ‘no’ recommendation, so were caught off guard due to the u-turn.

Many echoed comments of support to the Trust and congratulating the team their for their hard work.

Councillor Derek Wright also added that the issue had been first raised 14 months ago, “If it had been sorted earlier it would have saved the angst”, also critiquing the inability to ask questions on the issue today as the deadline passed 3 hours before the papers were made public.

Councillor Paul Blackwell pointed out that another £50k will be asked for next year, and that it could be worth starting work on that now. Councillor Hugh Jones replied, “There will be a new council in place in May, and it will be for that future council to make that decision.”

The meeting then kicked off with questions from Councillor Malcolm King, which was preempted.

Cllr King referred to May’s elections, implying that the decision today was with it in mind, saying “The sudden rash of support from Councillors (for Plas Madoc) could be about the upcoming elections. It is about politics because that is how we got here.”

“There is a feeling the Council is embarrassed by the success of Plas Madoc.”

In a long and wide ranging statement, Councillor King had to find a question, so ended up directing his point asking if there was an interest to declare by the Council Leader and apparent arch-nemesis in Council meetings, Mark Pritchard, “…The Labour group might not have split apart and you might not have become Leader!”

Councillor Pritchard said he was ‘disappointed’ in the personal comments, and that he ‘expected better’ from elected members.

Councillor Hugh Jones backed up Councillor Pritchard saying: “There is so much I could say, but I am not going to lower myself to personalise it. The facts are clearly stated in the report. The Officers are not involved in politics, they have worked on this to help us get to the position we are in today.”

Councillor David Bithell earned the approval of many in the public gallery, who although saw the decision many had wanted, had to this point kept mostly silent, adding: “I have to respond to the comments from Malcolm. Despite what differences you had with ex-colleagues in the Labour group, what we’ve done is try to find a workable solution between current administration of this council to support this Trust. That is something you failed to do, you were Lead Member for Finance at the time. I remember the comments of going too slow, and also remember who voted to close Plas Madoc.

“It is a bit rich coming here trying to make political noises.”

Personalising and politics were not too far for Councillor Phil Wynn who went even further, saying he would be “deeply concerned if labour get in next May and Malcolm becomes Finance Officer, deeply concerned.

At this point Councillor Pritchard in his role as Chairman asked Councillors to ‘take the politics out of this’, although Councillor Brian Cameron said that was ‘a bit small, how many times has the Chair made things political?”

Some of our live tweets from the meeting are below…

At this point there was a recess, so we nipped out to King Street Coffee

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