A letter from an amateur opera and drama society, which claimed charge increases of more than 50 per cent for the community facility they use is putting their future in jeopardy, has led to the council reconsidering its decision.
Penarth Operatic and Dramatic Society (PODS) received a letter from Penarth Town Council’s finance officer, detailing price increases for hire of the Paget Rooms, Penarth. Following recommendations in an internal audit report, the council approved the price increase for all bookings after April 1 at a meeting on March 8.
The charges for using the Paget Rooms for PODS latest show, Flare Path, totalled £983, but from April 1 will cost £2,032 for exactly the same use – doubling the cost of hiring the facility. PODS have performed in Penarth since 1924.
PODS are particularly affected by the increase because they need the facility over a number of days around their production. The council previously offered 25 per cent discount for this kind of use, but this has been scrapped under new proposals.
PODS wrote to the council to ask for special consideration. Nearly all of the councillors who originally voted in favour of the proposals said they had not had all the details to hand.
Councillor Clive Williams said: “We did vote in favour of the increase but it became clear afterwards that the figures were too high.”
Councillor Sophie Williams said: “These figures are horrific. Let’s not forget these are community facilities for community groups and we should support them.”
Councillor John Fraser said: “I do not want to see the old established users treated differently. We have a policy and that applies to everyone.”
Coun Fraser suggested phasing in increases over a longer period of time to ease the financial burden on the society.
Councillor Paul Church said: “PODS are some of our longest running customers and they do not always make a profit from their shows. I think they do a lot for Penarth in bringing people to this wonderful facility and we should support them.”
Councillor Paul Church: “If we price people out of the market we are going to end-up with an empty shell and still have all the costs.”
Councillor Gwyn Roberts said: “We are making a policy on the hoof and that will only lead to a bad policy. I suggest that what we do for a group like PODS is give them a community grant to give us some time to consider the changes and come up with the best way forward.
“Otherwise we are going to end-up with something that just doesn’t work.”
There was unanimous agreement to review the changes and offer PODS a community grant to help cover the costs of the next production in the interim.