Parties at loggerheads over the future of Southsea seafront venue

POLITICAL ARGUMENT The Pyramids in Southsea
POLITICAL ARGUMENT The Pyramids in Southsea

Taxpayers forking out millions in legal costs

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A POLITICAL row has erupted over the future of The Pyramids Centre.

Portsmouth’s Liberal Democrats group has sent out leaflets to thousands of residents urging them to keep supporting the Southsea leisure complex.

It comes at a time when BH Live – which operates The Pyramids on behalf of Portsmouth City Council – is about to carry out a £200,000 refurbishment.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the council, claims at least ‘80 per cent’ of people canvassed are firm backers.

Yet the city’s Labour group argue residents are worried, and it maintains the venue should be pulled down and vital public services should be protected instead.

Councillor Vernon-Jackson said: ‘We’ve done this in response to the city’s Labour group maintaining that The Pyramids should be knocked down instead.

‘This is a reminder to people of the really shoddy state of the Labour party.

‘They want one of the key attractions on the seafront bulldozed at a time when visitor numbers are increasing, satisfaction is high and we have been inundated with support for The Pyramids.

‘The level of support for The Pyramids is around 80 per cent, so that’s huge.

‘I was out door knocking on Monday and people were horrified that the Labour party wanted to shut The Pyramids down.’

As previously reported, the £200,000 refurbishment will pay for a new cafe, an improved reception space and features for the main pool, including new inflatables.

An exercise studio is to be built in a space at the back.

And since the new year, new membership packages and fitness class timetables have been drawn up.

Yet there are concerns because of the amount of money that’s been poured into the venue.

The council agreed to write off a hefty £2.86m loan given to previous operators Southsea Community Leisure Limited, which was used towards running costs.

And BH Live, which took over in October last year, is getting £200,000 over the course of its five-year contract, but that doesn’t cover the cost of maintaining the premises.

The bill for that would have to be picked up by taxpayers because it wasn’t factored into the deal.

Cllr John Ferrett, Labour group leader, said: ‘Our proposal in last year’s budget was to demolish The Pyramids and use the money that would be saved from the subsidy in order to fund Sure Start.

‘We still believe the money being pumped into The Pyramids would be better used for other public services.

‘People are worried about The Pyramids.’

But Cllr Vernon-Jackson said BH Live had his support.

‘BH Live is doing a great job,’ he said.

‘It made a bid for The Pyramids and it was the best one in terms of price and quality.’

A BH Live spokeswoman said: ‘Work has been ongoing to improve the catering, cleanliness and the retail offer and we have already received great customer feedback.’