Monday, 27 September 2010

Stadium for Cornwall - Council changes its tune

Anyone who has read anything from Cornwall Council about the Stadium for Cornwall would have got the impression that the Council was fully backing the project. But it appears that they might be getting cold feet about it after all.

On September 1st, Conservative Cabinet Member Carolyn Rule was gushing about the project:

"It’s great to see the project take a step forward by identifying a location. I'm sure once it's completed the stadium will be an inspiration to all that use it and will encourage participation in sports, as well as the economic benefits it can provide."

Not much room for doubt there. Despite the fact that the final value for money report from expert consultants (costing £78,000 of council tax payers' money) had yet to be received, Cllr Rule was talking in terms of when and not if it is built and also seemed certain that it would bring economic benefits. Remember that this was just a month or so ago - when the cuts that the Council is facing were well known and appreciated.

And yet now the mood music seems to have changed.

I asked Carolyn to explain the basis for her optimism on the financial viability for the project and asked who she or her officers had talked to about the stadium. I've now had this reply:

Dear Alex
Thanks for your email and interest in the stadium project.
You are correct in that there was a recent press release to say that the initial thoughts of the consultants are for one of several sites being looked at in the Truro/ Threemilestone area. You are also correct in that I expressed support for the ‘idea’ of a stadium. What is not yet decided on is whether a stadium will actually be built, the final report is not due until the end of the year and the ‘public’ money spent thus far, that came from my budget, was 78K.
I was happy to spend this money from a budget, which was funded via central government that I use to try and assist projects in the ‘working up’ stage to see if the case for a stadium for Cornwall actually stacks up. My feeling is that ratepayers can not be expected to pay for such a facility, no matter how wonderful, and there has to be other means identified to deliver such a venue, primarily from the private sector. This report will eventually direct that decision making process. The main thing in my mind is that it has to be financially sustainable and that is what I have tasked the consultants with proving.
Once we move further along the process, if there is a need for public money intervention then it would be part of the budget process and all the council would have an opportunity to debate and approve any such expenditure. With the extremely difficult times we now face that decision along with many others will need to be taken extremely carefully as always. No decision has been taken at this stage to proceed, nor has a final site been identified as yet.
Best wishes
Carolyn

And so it seems that it is not full steam ahead with the Stadium for Cornwall project after all. Apparently Cllr Rule was only in favour of 'the idea' of a stadium and, whilst she was happy to put money into a feasibility study, it appears pretty unlikely that Cornwall Council will ever have any spare money to fund the building itself. It will be up to the Pirates, Truro City or whoever is a prospective user to find the funds.

Incidentally, I haven't received any information about which prospective users have been talked to and so I have asked again for this.

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