Posted: Fri 17th Mar 2023

Claims £58m Colwyn Bay council building is empty dismissed as ‘myth’

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Friday, Mar 17th, 2023

Claims that a £58 million flagship North Wales council building is empty have been dismissed as a “myth”.

The comments were made by Conwy Council cabinet member Penny Andow, who insisted the Coed Pella complex in Colwyn Bay was in fact “jam-packed”.

It followed data previously being released under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act which showed only a quarter of the building was occupied during August last year.

The figures showed 173 council workers chose to work in the building, despite it having a capacity of around 700, with concerns raised over the situation in the past.

But Cllr Andow, portfolio holder for integrated adult and community services, told cabinet colleagues on Thursday it was was so busy during a recent visit that there were no parking spaces.

Speaking in a debate about hybrid working, she said: “At the full council meeting, a member said ‘Coed Pella is empty. There is no one in there’.

“Actually, I went to Coed Pella the following day, and it was absolutely jam-packed. I couldn’t park yesterday.

“I sat in reception on several different occasions and counted ten people coming in and out. Everyone is sat at their workstation.

“Coed Pella is certainly not empty and if you can find a parking space at 12pm on a weekday, then you are really lucky, so let’s stop that myth and move on.”

Councillors were discussing a mid-year report on the council’s five-year corporate plan, which was adopted last year.

The report said good progress had been made in delivering the authority’s objectives, including the installation of electric vehicle charging points and 7,300 LED street lights and securing £18m from the UK Government’s Levelling-Up Fund.

However, the discussion came amid a public backlash against the council after it agreed to a 9.9% council tax hike and 10% budget cuts to most departments, except education and social services.

Senior figures have blamed inflation and a poor settlement from the Welsh Government for both decisions.

And council leader Charlie McCoubrey insisted the authority was performing well, despite the criticism.

He said: “Sadly, the only parameters we will be judged on is the council tax, not the level of service we provide.

“People who require our services most are the ones who struggle to pay their council tax, and finding that balance is incredibly difficult.

“I’m not in any way competitive, but the fact there are only eight councils out of 22 (in Wales) who have managed free school meals for junior schools, and we are one of them…. that highlights that this council is a well-performing council.”

Cabinet member for environment, roads, and facilities Cllr Geoff Stewart said: “As a new member, I’m astonished at what we do as a council.

“Every day I find something new. I don’t think the public actually appreciates just what we do, apart from what is being seen here as an achievement.”

The report was backed by cabinet members at the end of the discussion.

By Richard Evans – Local Democracy Reporter

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