Pyramids Centre could face closure in three months

UNDER THREAT The Pyramids Centre on Southsea seafront could be closing. Picture: Malcolm Wells (120121-5377)
UNDER THREAT The Pyramids Centre on Southsea seafront could be closing. Picture: Malcolm Wells (120121-5377)

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THE group running the Pyramids Centre has been given three months to turn the landmark building’s fortunes around.

Portsmouth City Council has voted to extend financial support to Southsea Community Leisure Limited (SCLL) until September 30 – while warning the leisure centre’s future is in doubt.

By then SCLL will have received £1.3m in loans since January 2011.

But it still says it needs a further £330,000 in order to become sustainable by March 2014.

Officers have said in a report they think it is ‘unlikely’ that SCLL will ever be able survive without council support.

The report adds that because of EU law the local authority cannot go on propping up the Pyramids without inviting competition from other providers.

Lib Dem leader of the council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said officers have estimated the rough size of the subsidy the council should be providing and it is less than the amount Southsea Community Leisure is currently receiving.

He said: ‘These three months will give them a bit more time to help them sort that out.

‘We can see if they are getting closer or if we think they will never get to the point where their business plan will work.’

He added: ‘Our council decided a certain sum of money would be provided over a certain period of time – and now we have come to the end of that time but not the end of the money.

‘They have not drawn down all the funds that were provided by the council and it was suggested we give them some more time to show us what they can do.

‘It is probably fair to say that when they came to us originally they told us something that might have been too good to be true, and we all voted for that and accepted that, and it has been claimed that they were a little over-optimistic.

‘But recently it has done extremely well – usage is up and it is a vital part of our local infrastructure.’

Conservative group leader Cllr Simon Bosher said he thought there were serious questions about whether SCLL was the right company to be running the centre.

‘We do not want to see the Pyramids close – no one does,’ he said.

‘But I have concerns about SCLL’s business plan and so do the council’s own officers.

‘We need to look at other options and that is why our group has suggested looking into splitting the pool side of the business, which is likely to keep losing money, from the events side, which could be profitable.

‘I’m not sure SCLL are the right people to be in charge of both.’