The Labour Cabinet decided last Wednesday that despite the huge opposition from local residents and a whole range of artists who have performed there they were going to go ahead with their plan to close the Muni theatre in Pontypridd. This it seems had been the plan all along regardless of what the consultation said. Why else would the local MP have been meeting with Pontypridd Town Council and talking of looking at a community take-over bid in April? Indeed Owen Smith announced in his Pontypridd Observer column before the Cabinet meeting had taken place that the decision had been taken to close it.
What really galls me is the total unfairness of it all. My colleagues and I have said in the past that we don't think Councils should necessarily be providing these facilities in the first place. There tends to be a lack of business acumen, and it would seem in RCT, a reluctance to make money in some cases. Why else would they let all the profits from the Big Weekend go to a private company when they are supposedly partners in the event? The role of the Council should be more of a facilitator for community enterprise.
Why though has the Muni been singled out for closure? This despite the fact that the Muni is the most financially viable of the three and the backlog of repairs for that building is less than the other two. As I said in my submission to the consultation the figures given in the initial report appear to have been manipulated to reach a certain conclusion whilst other information was not been provided which should have been. The attendance figures per event showed that percentage wise the Muni is better attended given that it has a much smaller capacity and also puts on a far higher number of professional artistic events. There was little evidence of sound reasoning behind the selection criteria and scoring system which was highly subjective. Why as a listed building is the Muni did they claim the Muni had no cultural significance and what was the basis for suggesting it has no sense of community ownership - and conversely what suggests the others do?
I certainly don't want to see any of them close but if the Council cannot afford to run them then they should be looking at putting all three out to community / private ownership not single out one. In fact they should have been looking at this sometime ago as they knew the shift in economic fortunes was coming years ago. The Park & Dare and Coliseum are indeed valuable assets to the communities they serve but as they are being run by RCT Council they will continue to be money pits. Conversely of course the fact that the Muni is doing so much better and requires less work on the building means it is the most lucrative of the three.
Is it any wonder that the people of Pontypridd are increasingly questioning just what they get from this Labour Council? Pontypridd is supposedly the County Town of RCT, and we are constantly hearing from the Labour party how much they are spending and how they are planning on regenerating it. Yet they are tearing up the paddling pool against the wishes of the public, to build an open air Lido which it is increasingly likely will not be affordable and will be put out to private contract. Now they want to close the Muni, and to top it all are taking the grant from the Pontypridd Museum. £10m on fancy pavements will be wasted unless a more holistic approach is taken to regeneration by this Council.