Posted: Tue 12th Mar 2024

Blaenau Gwent Councillors to Explore Options for New Council Chamber /

A GROUP of Blaenau Gwent councillors could be tasked to look at options to find new council chamber.
Four years ago, at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic staff and councillors left the Civic Centre, the council headquarters in Ebbw Vale, never to return.
The building including the council chamber has since been demolished to make way for a future housing development.
The council’s headquarters is now on the first floor of the General Offices (GO) in Ebbw Vale.
But there are issues at the building which mean that full council meetings are still held online.
Rooms are not big enough to take all councillors, staff, and members of the public together at the same time.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Democratic Services Committee on Monday, March 11 councillors received a report that recommended establishing a working party to look at potential options for a new chamber.
Performance and democratic service manager Gemma Wasley explained that one of the rooms that could be turned into a council chamber had become available.
This is after Aneurin Bevan University Health Board had recently vacated it.
Since 2020 the health board has used the room as a mass vaccination centre for Covid-19,
Ms Wasley: “We’re wondering if this is an opportunity now following conversations we’ve had with members to consider a council chamber.”
She added that a location for a new chamber might not be at the GO but elsewhere.
Ms Wasley said: “But rather than us (officers) coming to you (councillors) saying we should be here or there or do this and that: we thought a member working group would be useful so that we could scope the options, requirements and cost.”
Cllr Lisa Winnett said: “My concern is the cost to undertake this.
“The biggest factor is the acoustics and we’re limited in what we can do as the GO is a listed building.
“Like all councils – we are struggling financially at the moment.”
Cllr Winnett said that investigating the options would use money: “we could do without spending, especially when we’re looking at cuts.”
Cllr Tommy Smith agreed with concerns about the cost, but believed the council should look for “external funding” and ask the Welsh Government for money.
Cllr Smith said: “I’m not sure how many other local authorities actually haven’t got a physical council chamber.
“While I appreciate costs and it’s a massive factor, we should have a physical chamber where everyone can get together.”
“We have to look outside the box.”
Committee chairman Cllr John Hill said: “I imagine these are all the things that the working group would be looking into.”
Councillors agreed to set up the working group and this recommendation will now go to a full council meeting later this month for approval. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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