Thursday, 17 November 2011

Cabinet still spinning furiously over stadium

This morning Cornwall's Strategic Planning Committee will consider the outline application to build a 10,000 seater stadium at Langarth Farm near Threemilestone.

There are two distinct aspects to the stadium process. The first (this one) is all about planning. Is this the right place for such a building and associated activities including the traffic, parking and influx of people on matchdays? There are very strict rules as to what can be considered relevant and, should councillors vote yes today having heard all the evidence, it doesn't automatically mean that it will go ahead, it just means that, in principle, they are happy with the concept of a stadium in that location.

That's because of the second aspect - the funding and running of the facility. I've made it clear that I have no objection in principle to a stadium (and have no view on whether the current site is the right one). What I am concerned about is the proposal to use public money to pay for it.

The Cabinet voted earlier this year to spend up to £120,000 on putting together a business case for the stadium. What I don't think people realised at the time is that the Council would take on the role of being the drivers to make the stadium happen and the biggest cheerleaders for it. I also don't think we realised just how much more than the £120,000 would be spent. Many hundreds of officer hours - paid for by council taxpayers - are being put into the stadium project but, because no officer is working full time on the project, apparently nobody is keeping tabs on how much this costs and it is not included within the £120,000.

The business case report was meant to be going to a scrutiny committee last month but got pulled at the last minute. It is, apparently, now due to be published in the New Year. In the meantime, the Cabinet Member responsible is still spinning for all he is worth.

No doubt entirely coincidentally, at the end of last week Cllr Ridgers sent an email to all Cornwall Councillors which included the claim that the stadium would bring £3m per year in economic benefits to Cornwall. I asked him to provide evidence for that claim but he refused.

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