A PROBE into a one-off payment for a theatre in Brecon will be widened.

On Friday, the Audit Committee was supposed to discuss a report by chairman, Cllr John Morris (Liberal Democrat – Crickhowell), and vice-chairman, independent member John Brautigam, into payment of nearly £158,000 given to Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon last year.

But the report has been deferred and now Powys County Council’s internal auditors, SWAP will be brought in to conduct their own investigation.

Cllr Morris said: “We’ve had various correspondences about this and I’m seeking to defer this item because of internal audit.

“When John (Brautigam) and I were asked by the previous committee to investigate this, it looked fairly straightforward, however it has become quite complex.

“It’s one of the reasons it’s taken so long to get where we are. There are still some complex issues there.

“Recognising the concerns of all stakeholders, we have asked internal auditors to undertake a fuller review of this position.

“If it’s all right with members can we defer this to allow SWAP to investigate and it will come back to the next committee.”

The committee agreed to the postponement.

The issue goes back to August 2018, when payment of £157,920 was given to the theatre to maintain the asset.

At the time the chairs of Scrutiny and Audit committees were asked not to call-in the decision made by portfolio holder for highways, recycling and assets, Phyl Davies (Conservative – Blaen Hafren).

Audit chairman, Cllr John Morris (Liberal Democrat – Crickhowell), expressed concerns at the time as no information was given to explain why the payment was needed.

The Audit committee in September 2018 authorised him and vice-chairman, John Brautigam to investigate the payment.

Their report found:

The Theatre has a history of poor management and accounting practices.

Without the funds Theatr Brycheiniog would have folded.

In that event PCC could have been liable to pay back a £1.6 million grant from the Arts Council Wales which had been given over 20 years ago during the building process.

Their report shows that no checks had been made on what the money was spent on, or that it was enough to allow the theatre to continue operating.

They believed that one of the problems had been inter-departmental fighting, between the Property (Service) and Leisure in managing the building.

They had come up with a list of recommendations which included:

All council properties to be under the supervision of the Property Service which should have corporate landlord status

Any future requests for payments of similar nature need to have documents to justify the action.

They added that when investigating the matter, they had met some resistance.

Theatr Brycheiniog company was incorporated in November 1989, operating as the Brecon Guildhall Theatre Ltd until November 2008.

It is a registered charity and in 1997 took out a 28 year full lease on purpose built premises owned by PCC.

£1.6 million to build it came from the Arts Council Wales.

The theatre was expected to fund any repairs to the building and paid £100 annual rent.