By John Baron
A senior West Leeds councillor has called on council chiefs to reconsider the proposed closure of Pudsey Civic Hall – and called into question claims that the building needs a £7m refurbishment.
The local authority has just finished a public consultation into the proposed closure of Pudsey Civic Hall, as it looks to balance its books ahead of the new financial year in April.
Leeds council says the Civic Hall operates at a modest profit but has a maintenance backlog and needs a full refurbishment which would cost around £7.25m, according to a report to the council’s Outer West Community Committee on Wednesday. It is looking to close the building and sell the land to raise much-needed funds.
Members of the Outer West Community Committee will debate and scrutinise the proposed closure, ahead of the council’s budget being finalised later this month.
Ahead of the meeting, Councillor Andrew Carter (Cons, Calverley and Farsley) said: “A facility used by 50,000 people a year and making, in the council’s own words – “a modest surplus” – must be worth saving. Given the extremely poor marketing the council has engaged in for Pudsey Civic Hall, a lot more could be done to increase the usage and make the building sustainable.
“The council administration clearly took a decision to close it, and now are building a pretty threadbare case around this decision to justify it. To pretend that it needs a £7 million refurbishment now is simply not a true reflection of the situation.
“Councillor Amanda Carter and I have been inundated with emails and contacts from far and wide, but particularly local people, protesting at what the council is proposing. They must reconsider.”
A report to be considered by councillors sitting on the outer west community committee next Wednesday says the building, which dates back to 1972, does not meet its annual budget targets and because it has large investment needs to ensure that it remains attractive to event organisers.
The council says it is not in a position to continue to fund these needs in the context of its broader financial challenges. The potential sale of the site could also deliver a capital receipt for the council.
The report states that the venue, which was used by over 49,000 people in the last financial year, makes a ‘modest surplus’ but is consistently failing to meet income targets and is a “financial strain” on the council.
Revenue from the 300-capacity car park has also decreased due to the closure of Green Flag at Dawsons Corner in 2015 and changing working patterns following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report goes on to say that the 52-year-old building is in need of substantial investment. The report states: “…Taking account of the age of the mechanical and electrical installations of the building, the energy certificate that would need to be achieved and applying a m2 rate to the full refurbishment of the facility, Asset Management have estimated that a comprehensive refurbishment cost would be in the region of £7.25m.”
The council allocates £20,000 per year towards maintenance costs.
“Notably, although there were fewer events in 2022/23 compared to 2019/20 (412 as opposed to 569), there were more people attending activities in the hall.”
Last financial year some 38,587 people visited the hall for events including 178 conferences. The report said: “If you add to this the 10,800 children attending for music rehearsals, 49,387 took part in some sort of activity in Pudsey Civic Hall during 2022/23.”
The report added: “While Pudsey Civic Hall delivers a modest surplus each year, overall it does not meet its budget target and the council’s ability to continue to operate the venue successfully will worsen, alongside the need to commit to backlog maintenance needs in the near future.”
The council last week admitted a multi-million pound overspend continues to grow as decisions loom over spending cuts to balance the council’s budget. Much of the financial shortfall is being caused by the rising cost of caring for vulnerable children in the city. Almost £60m must be slashed from the overall budget this financial year.
Cllr Debra Coupar, (Lab) executive member for resources, said: “We are not unique in the country in terms of the pressure for funding around children’s services and the inadequacy of funding from the government to allow us to do that job.”
The hall is the home of ArtForms, a council music and arts service for young people.
WLD has contacted the council for a breakdown of the proposed costs.
The full agenda and report can be found here. The committee meets at Farnley Hall Park on Wednesday, 14 February at 1pm. Members of the public can attend.
A public consultation into the future of Pudsey Civic Hall closed last month. Its future will be considered as part of the council’s city-wide budget proposals at a meeting of all 99 councillors at Leeds Civic Hall on 21 February 2024.
The outer west community committee is made up of nine councillors from Calverley & Farsley ward, Farnley & Wortley ward and Pudsey ward. There are five Conservative councillors, three Labour and one Green.