Call for councillor to get sack over Pyramids Centre

STILL AFLOAT The Pyramids Centre remains open but questions are being asked about the way it is run. ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (120121-5337)
STILL AFLOAT The Pyramids Centre remains open but questions are being asked about the way it is run. ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (120121-5337)
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PORTSMOUTH’S Tories have called for heads to roll over the Pyramids Centre saga.

The leader of the city council’s Conservative group, Cllr Simon Bosher, has demanded the Lib Dem councillor responsible for culture, leisure and sport resigns.

He said that Cllr Lee Hunt was responsible for overseeing the facility during the period where its operator, Southsea Community Leisure Limited, has been accused of serious financial mismanagement.

On Monday the city’s Lib Dem councillors voted to give the company eight months and at least £500,000 to keep running the centre while a new procurement process takes place.

Members of the Tory group also said the board and management structure of the Pyramids needs to be restructured.

It follows an internal audit of the centre which found stock was not being recorded, employees did not have CRB checks, a VAT receipt had been amended and there was a widespread risk of fraud.

Cllr Bosher said: ‘Lee Hunt has been consistently coming to council meetings and saying “this is their last chance, we’re not giving them any more money” and that has been shown to be total nonsense.

‘We have a damning audit report on how the building has been run and Cllr Hunt is supposed to have been the one overseeing all of this.

‘As the portfolio holder he was responsible for overseeing the good governance of the Pyramids – and he hasn’t done his job so he should step down.’

But Cllr Hunt said Cllr Bosher’s comments were ‘ridiculous’ and the council had done everything it could to prevent mismanagement.

‘It is a private company and we had no right to go in and audit them,’ he said. ‘It was only because we were very sensible when we agreed to extend the payments and said it was a condition.

‘We have been as involved in its running as we could possibly be. And they are doing a very good job already at fixing the problems of the past.

‘There are lessons to be learned but we are already learning those lessons.’

Council officers will now sit on the Pyramids board to oversee that the failings highlighted by the report are put right. A second audit report will be produced in February.