Wednesday 21 November 2012

Costa fortune

In a week in which Carmarthenshire Council announce that they will have to make cuts of £16m over the next three years, close thirty public toilets, withdraw free transport for 6th formers, shave £5m off technical services and save £40,000 by abandoning the usual free parking for town centres leading up to Christmas (moving it instead to that notoriously busy time between Christmas and the New Year) we discover that they've given £20,000 towards the 3D sound system for the new Odeon in Eastgate Llanelli. Incidentally, this is roughly the cost of installing webcasting in the Council Chamber.

To start with, I spend quite some time trawling through agendas and minutes and failed to spot, anywhere, a decision to do this. The Nottingham based developers of the Eastgate complex, Henry Davidson Ltd, have already been given prime development land worth £4m, further funding and a promise by the council to 'underwrite' their costs to the tune of £250,000 a year for twenty years for offices in the complex. A further £450,000 is earmarked to redesign the office space, (previous post here) Parking at the development appears to be inadequate not least of all the decision to limit it to short term only which must have come to something of a shock to the 55-bed Travelodge hotel who have set up shop there.

The Odeon cinema is part of the complex and, as the Llanelli star reports, local traders are furious to discover that the council has spent £20,000 subsidising a multi million pound private company in this way whilst directly affecting their Christmas trade by refusing the free parking.

A local market trader said;
"Are we also right to assume that maybe they are sponsoring the coffee machines for Costa coffee, the kitchen facilities for Nandos and the Hungry Horse, and perhaps the beds for the new Travelodge?

Of course, he's not far off the mark. As each company announced it's arrival at Eastgate, so did the Council with full page free 'advertisements' from the council press office on the council website; the Odeon, Nando's, the Hungry Horse, Costa Coffee and Ben and Jerry's were all given a wondrous welcome as the saviours of Llanelli, thanks to the council. The article advertising the Odeon contained no less than ten references to the company in capital letters. So the comment from the council spokesman that 'no contributions were made to other companies soon to open at Eastgate' was not entirely accurate.

The spokesman also said that 'The 3D sound system might not have come to Carmarthenshire without our support'. Well, yes it probably would have done, I expect the Odeon can afford it, and there's already a 3D system in the Apollo in Carmarthen, I wonder how much the Council contributed towards that? Since when has it become a Statutory Duty of local authorities to provide 3D sound systems? Or provide free advertising and rent concessions for multi national chains?

And just how many people will go to the cinema and frequent the rather expensive eateries and coffee shop in the complex? Who can afford it? I know I couldn't. Most people these days can just about afford the occasional takeaway and a rented DVD. Whatever the client√®le this all attracts, and Llanelli is not known for it's 'cafe culture', none of it will benefit the economy of Llanelli.
Surely 'regeneration' should be aimed at existing businesses and encouraging new local enterprises? or perhaps refurbishing the existing cinema instead of leaving it to decay? Keep it local and the money stays local. As usual the priority of this council, is to ensure that every penny spent in it's various vanity projects, which the local taxpayer is subsidising to the hilt, goes straight over the Severn Bridge and is never seen again.

(Llanelli Star report here)


Anonymous said...

Hear hear Jacqui, excellently put. The 'investments' benefit multinationals based outside Wales. Let's improve what we have, not leave it to decay (and to be a problem in the future). From

Anonymous said...

What confuses me is, why on earth fork this money out to Odeon when there's a perfectly capable and deserving theatre with cinema that would deserve it more (Theatr Elli)?

Anna Mosity said...

Theatr Elli closed as a theatre in July and as a cinema in September.

Much to the council's frustration it is a listed building, but they are doing their best to solve that by allowing it crumble before our eyes.

Mark James says you can buy it for a £1, as long as you won't use it as a cinema or theatre. He doesn't want anybody to compete with Odeon or the new (unwanted) theatre.

Keith Parry said...

Is Carmarthen County Council the worst council in Wales? There are some bad councils but this shower must be the worst. If it wasnt run by Labour Im sure the government would have intervened before now.

Anonymous said...

They really seem to be a law unto themselves. I can't believe why the Welsh Government don't step in.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear god something good that has got Llanelli buzzing again and is bringing people into the town centre and all you can do is nit pick at the detail. I moved away from Llanelli for 5 years and I tell you what I observed on my return: the astounding ability of it's residents to moan, criticise, always looking back. I'm Llanelli born and bred but thoroughly ashamed to say it sometimes because of how people view not Llanelli itself, but it's residents

caebrwyn said...

Anon 08.33
Thanks for your comment.
The devil, I'm afraid, is always in the detail.