Money not just for few

I MUST, inevitably, respond to Nick Chandler following his letter in last week’s Penarth Times (November 15) which might be considered by some readers as mildly critical of me.

The point I was making was that unlike those who work in the private sector who operate as they see fit and at their own risk, those of us with responsibilities in local government have to consider, first and foremost, the fact that we are using public money for the benefit of all, and not just for one or two privately operated clubs, such as the Boxing Club and Gym Club, who have both enjoyed publicly funded club facilities for many years at a very reasonable cost.

Whether St Paul’s Church should be the exclusive home of just two clubs or made available to all local organisations is a matter for debate, but those of us charged with deciding these matters quite correctly considered that if we were to grant any organisation exclusive use of a publicly owned leisure facility, whether that was a fair and reasonable decision and in the best interests of Penarth as a whole.

It is very easy for councillors to be criticised for the decisions that they make, even if we did decide to allocate £250,000 to repair and improve the former church building, even though we had our doubts about the building’s long term viability. But that decision was taken some ten months ago by those then in office, yet nothing has happened since, when anybody might reasonably expect the work to have been well under way by now. If I were the chairman of any similar club who currently has to pay fairly hefty hire charges at a leisure centre or other private venue, I might think that the two clubs already mentioned have enjoyed a fair degree of public largesse for many years, and that now the position is to be regularised so that some measure of equality becomes evident to all.

I make no apology for the decision to allocate £1/4 million for improving facilities in North Penarth earlier this year – I just hope that it will eventually benefit all local residents and not just the chosen few.

Cllr Anthony Ernest

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