CARDIFF Council has denied claims that a deal has already been signed for the takeover of St David’s Hall.
A St David’s Hall employee claimed a deal had been signed between the council and Academy Music Group (AMG) for the takeover of the classical music venue on The Hayes, despite the council saying it aims to make a final cabinet decision on the matter in March.
The council said this claim is not true and there are still several legal steps it has to follow before any agreement can be signed.
Ben Herrington, who works at St David’s Hall, made the claim on Twitter on Sunday, January 29, the day that the public consultation on the council’s budget proposals closed.
Ben said he and other members of staff are heartbroken over the prospect of St David’s Hall changing operators.
He added: “I am in the process of finishing my masters. I have worked in the building for the past six years.
“I would have liked to have graduated in that building surrounded by colleagues I have known for the last seven years. We feel completely disillusioned with Cardiff Council.”
A Cardiff Council spokesperson said: “The claim that Cardiff Council has agreed, approved or signed the handover of St David’s Hall to AGM is not true.
“In fact, doing what is claimed without concluding the voluntary ex-ante transparency (VEAT) process and without taking a recommendation to cabinet for it to decide, along with the results of the public consultation on the budget for consideration, would be unlawful.”
With the council facing a £23.5m budget gap and maintenance costs at St David’s Hall running into the millions of pounds, the council has been looking for a new operator to come in and take on its running.
An offer by AMG to take on St David’s Hall via a long-term lease was approved in principle by Cardiff Council’s cabinet in December.
The proposal has faced widespread opposition from employees, concert goers and musicians. A petition opposing the proposal has received more than 21,700 signatures.
After a draft contract is drawn up, the council will publish what is known as VEAT notice, which is used to publish a commercial intention to the wider market.
This allows competitors to come forward with a challenge to the proposal, which would lead to a procurement process.
A VEAT notice will normally stand for about 10 to 20 days.
If no challenge is presented once the VEAT period is up, a final report will be presented to the council’s cabinet for approval.
At the time of the offer being approved in principle, Cardiff Council’s cabinet member for culture, parks and events, Cllr Jennifer Burke Davies, said: “There is undeniably a need to secure investment into St David’s Hall.
“Given the current pressure on budgets – we face a significant budget gap next year – the council is keen to explore alternative models which can revitalise and upgrade the building, while protecting the venue’s status as the National Concert Hall of Wales.
“This council knows the importance of St David’s Hall to classical music lovers and the proposal does protect the main classical programme, community events, and includes opportunities for these to be extended.
“The hall would continue to deliver a world-class international concert series and classical music programme which gives residents and visitors access to classical music, delivered by respected full symphonic orchestras in the hall’s specially-designed auditorium.
“It also commits to a substantial investment to repair and upgrade the building while ensuring the hall’s reputation for world-class acoustics will remain.
“The original acoustic engineers Sandy Brown have seen the plans for the seating arrangements and are content that they will not adversely affect the acoustics and that St David’s will maintain its reputation as one of the best sounding concert halls in the world.
“The proposal also protects all existing employees on their current terms and conditions through a TUPE agreement, but the council will absorb the Arts Active team into the education department so that they can continue the great work they do bringing classical music to new audiences each year.”
Cardiff Council is aiming for a final cabinet decision on the potential takeover in March.