Council faces £3.5m bill for Pyramids repairs

The Pyramids
The Pyramids
Portsmouth Port. Photo by Chris Pearsall

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MILLIONS of pounds from the public purse could be spent on major repair work at The Pyramids Centre.

A survey has revealed more than £3.5m may need to be spent on making big changes at the troubled Southsea leisure venue in the next five years and beyond.

It’s unknown whether Portsmouth City Council, which owns the building, would split the bill with BH Live – which is due to take on the lease in the autumn – or cover everything.

A decision will be made once contracts between both parties are drawn up in October.

Labour group leader John Ferrett, said he was extremely concerned with the findings and that the costs could be even more if BH Live asks for compensation if the centre has to be shut while work is done.

Cllr Ferrett, who previously called in the council’s decision to continue funding The Pyramids, said: ‘The issue I have asked about, and not got an answer to, is how much compensation BH Live would get for loss of earnings should the centre shut down if repairs are made.

‘The taxpayer is being expected to shoulder known risks and some unknown risks.

‘I can’t see The Pyramids being in a position where it will ever become viable.

‘It has already required a subsidy of almost £1m a year and requires more going forward. Should BH Live say it needs another £200,000 a year, what is the council going to do?’

Work needs to be done to ceilings, electrics, outside and inside walls and doors, windows, furniture and fittings, floors and stairs, mechanics, decorations, roofs and sanitary facilities.

If the council has to pay then it’s unclear as to whether some of the £2m it’s agreed to give BH Live towards running costs over the next five years could be used.

The council has already agreed to write off a £2.86m loan it gave to outgoing operator Southsea Community Leisure Limited.

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘At the call-in meeting, the advice from the council officers were that the full cost of repairs over the five years of the contract had been factored in to the contract,’ he said.

‘That’s if the repairs happen. We don’t know if it’s going to be needed.

‘The backlog of maintenance on council buildings in this city is around £60m.’

BH Live did not wish to comment while negotiations are ongoing.

The purpose of the survey was to find out what work needed to be done and what was urgent.

About £16,400 needs to be spent now, £1.1m in the next two years, £716,000 in the next three to five years and £1.66m afterwards.

Conservative group leader Donna Jones said: ‘That money could be spent on new schools and funding school places and more social workers. It’s about getting your priorities right. When times are hard, local authorities need to be protecting important services.’