It’s a “myth” that a £58 million flagship North Wales council building is empty. That was the claim made by Penny Andow who insisted the Coed Pella complex in Colwyn Bay was in fact “jam-packed”, at a meeting of the Conwy Council cabinet on Thursday.
Her comments follow a Freedom of Information (FOI) application in December which showed it was occupied by just 25% of staff during August 2022 when 173 council workers chose to work at the building which has a capacity of around 700.
But Cllr Andow, the cabinet member for integrated adult and community services, said the building was was so busy you couldn’t park there on a debate about hybrid working. She said: “At the full council meeting, a member said ‘Coed Pella is empty. There is no one in there’. And Mike (Cllr Priestley) held up his plastic glass, and he said this glass is empty.
“And actually I went to Coed Pella the following day, and it was absolutely jam-packed. I couldn’t park yesterday. I sat in reception on several different occasions and counted 10 people coming in and out. Everyone is sat at their workstation.
“So can we dispel the myth? Coed Pella is certainly not empty and if you can find a parking space at 12pm on a weekday, then you are really lucky. So let’s stop that myth and move on.”
Councillors were discussing a mid-year progress performance report regarding the council’s five-year corporate plan, which was adopted last year. The report stated good progress was made during the first six months in delivering the council’s well-being objectives and included a list of 81 areas of success.
These include the installation of electric vehicle charging points; the installation of 7,300 LED street lights; launching a new “visit Conwy this winter campaign” creating 10 new housing units; and securing £18m from the UK Levelling-Up Fund.
But the positive report followed a huge public backlash after the council agree a 9.9% council tax hike couple and 10% budget cut to all services except education and social services (who faced a 5% reduction). The council blames inflation and a poor local government settlement from the Welsh Government for the tax rises and service cuts.
Council leader Charlie McCoubrey insisted the authority was well-performing, despite this backdrop: “Sadly the only parameters we will be judged on is the council tax, not the level of service we provide.
“But that is the dichotomy we face. People who require our services most are the ones who struggle to pay their council tax, and finding that balance is incredibly difficult. I’m not in any way competitive, but the fact there are only eight councils out of 22 who have managed free school meals for junior schools, and we are one of them…. That highlights that this council is a well-performing council.”Cabinet member for environment, roads, and facilities Cllr Geoff Stewart added: “As a new member, I’m astonished at what we do as a council. “Every day I find something new. I don’t think the public actually appreciates just what we do, apart from what is being seen here as an achievement.
“Yes, forget about the negativity of what goes wrong – ‘my bin wasn’t emptied for a particular reason’ but not the fact we have 90,000 bins (emptied) done every week’. I think the same applies here. If I had anything to say, it would be what can the public do to help us achieve better and where this can be fitted into the corporate plan.”
The report was backed by cabinet members.