Portsmouth City Council could test support for Pyramids

HOT TOPIC The future of the Pyramids could be influenced by a survey of the public. ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (120121-5337)
HOT TOPIC The future of the Pyramids could be influenced by a survey of the public. ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (120121-5337)

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A SURVEY to ask people if they want to keep the Pyramids Centre has been proposed following its controversial bailout.

The suggestion to gauge support for the leisure complex was made following a decision by Portsmouth City Council to give its operator Southsea Community Leisure Limited extra funds.

A further eight months and at least £500,000 will be provided by the authority, despite a damning audit report of the company and criticism from the city’s other two political parties.

The administration’s planning chief Mike Hancock said the council had made the right choice, but that it could still examine how people feel about the centre.

‘It would be interesting to test whether people want to keep the Pyramids or not,’ he said.

‘At the meeting I’m not sure anyone was there to listen to us discuss the centre, because everyone had left.

‘But I think there is extremely strong feeling in the city and it would be worth finding out.’

Tory finance spokeswoman Donna Jones agreed in principle with the survey, but said people needed to have all the facts to make a decision.

She said: ‘If we told people keeping the Pyramids open is going to cost us £800,000 every year would they say yes? Probably not.

‘We need to investigate thoroughly and then tell people the truth.’

Leader of the council Gerald Vernon-Jackson said he thought some kind of survey was a good idea, but also hit back at the Tory groups’ refusal to vote for giving SCLL any more money.

He said they were actually supporting an option that would cost the council an extra £100,000, because it would take two or three years to build back up the centre’s membership following a temporary closure.

He said: ‘It’s very clear that by not voting to give Southsea Community Leisure any more financial support the Conservatives were actually opting to spend more taxpayers’ money. They would also increase the risk of things like vandalism and people breaking into the building while it’s closed.’

But this was rejected by Conservative planning spokesman Luke Stubbs, who said his group had proposed supporting SCLL, but with the conditions of an independent report and more financial transparency.

He said: ‘I don’t accept that we have to back them otherwise we are trying to do down Portsmouth. We have seen this many time from the Lib Dems and it simply isn’t true. We are not trying to close the Pyramids.’