A REPORT that probes why a payment of £157,920 was given by Powys County Council (PCC) to a theatre, 18 months ago, will not be discussed until the end of March.

This report was supposed to be discussed by the audit committee on Friday, February 7 – but this has now been put back for six weeks until March 23.

In August 2018, the money was given to Theatr Brycheiniog, in Brecon, to maintain the asset.

At the time the chairs of PCC’s scrutiny and audit committees were asked not to call-in the decision made by the then 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.

In September 2018, the audit committee authorised Cllr Morris and vice-chairman, independent member, John Brautigam, to investigate.

They were going to report on the issues to the committee in September 2019, but the item was deferred as PCC’s internal auditors SWAP was brought in to conduct its own investigation.

Cllr Morris told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The SWAP report on Theatr Brycheiniog capital payment was due to come to audit this Friday.

“However, due to the time it has taken to get the report together and the fact that all interviewees have to be given the opportunity to check the report for accuracy, the report will not be presented to the committee this Friday but will come to a special meeting on March 23.”

Cllr Morris added that he would give a brief update on this at the meeting on Friday.

From their own findings Cllrs Morris and Mr Brautigam had found that:

  • Scrutiny chairs were put under considerable pressure to agree not to call in the decision.
  • Insufficient information was available to make a proper assessment.
  • No checks appear to have been made that the £157,920 had been spent on defects.
  • Documents obtained from the theatre after the payment showed significant amounts of the sum claimed went on decoration and refurbishment.
  • There is also evidence that some expenditure was to cure dilapidations resulting from poor or incomplete maintenance.

One of the issues that this has raised is that  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.

  • 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.