A £150,00 UK Government grant will fund alterations to an arts centre which councillors have agreed can be a base for adults with learning disabilities. 

The cash will be used for adaptations to the Melville Arts Centre in Abergavenny which it is intended will provide a room in the venue as a base for the My Day, My Life support service. 

Its previous home, The Tudor Centre, never reopened after closing at the start of the Covid pandemic in March 2020, and last month Monmouthshire council’s cabinet agreed the Melville Centre should, instead, be used as its base.

A full meeting of the county council, on Thursday, December 7, had to either accept that decision – or order the cabinet to look again after a cross party scrutiny committee referred the November decision to it

It was the third time the fate of the Tudor Street building has been discussed at the full council since a cabinet decision, in November 2022, that the building should be permanently closed and sold for social housing. 

Cabinet member for social care Ian Chandler said when it agreed on the Melville it had also confirmed the council would continue to work with a community group, The Gathering, which was formed by campaigners who wanted Tudor Street reopened, to assist them in developing a service to support a wider range of adults with disabilities, mental health and other support needs. 

As a result it has also been agreed no decision will be taken on the Tudor Street building until at least next April to give the group time to draw up a business plan and a proposal to take over the building. 

The Gathering will also be able to use the Well Being Hub, the former Tourist Information Centre (TIC), at Abergavenny Bus Station and it will be an interim base for My Day, My Life. 

The Green Party councillor said: “This group are happy with the proposal I put to cabinet and disappointed at the decision to call it in.” 

After Conservative opposition leader Richard John complained Cllr Chandler had announced the £150,000, “without any explanation of where it has come from”, deputy leader Paul Griffiths confirmed the UK Government Shared Prosperity Fund is providing the money. 

The Labour councillor said it had been allocated by a partnership board, rather than the council, though he is a member of the board – and he said “by coincidence” it had meet on Friday, December 1, at the same time the scrutiny committee was considering the call in. 

Cllr Griffiths said as My Day, My Life is a statutory service the council must provide it wouldn’t be eligible for the funding but the Melville Centre is. 

Conservative councillor for Raglan Penny Jones said the cabinet should reconsider its decision due to the new funding being available. 

Magor West councillor Frances Taylor, who leads the independent group, suggested if The Gathering group was able to take on the Tudor Centre it would then be eligible for the Shared Prosperity Fund grant. 

She also said she didn’t understand why The Gathering and My Day, My Life couldn’t already use the former TIC. 

South Wales Argus: Cllr Ian Chandler, Cllr Paul Griffiths and Cllr Frances Taylor.Cllr Ian Chandler, Cllr Paul Griffiths and Cllr Frances Taylor. (Image: Monmouthshire County Council.)

Monmouth Labour member Catherine Fookes said she, Abergavenny councillor Laura Wright and Caldicot member Jackie Strong had been working with The Gathering to open the TIC for them before Christmas. 

She said Jenny Powell, the chair of the Gathering, had told her she was “really frustrated by the call in” and Cllr Fookes said while the cabinet had “mishandled” the situation a year ago she accused opposition councillors of “scoring political points” and said: “My Day, My Life has a very accessible building that could be opened up tomorrow if it was not for those wasting time calling this in.” 

Labour member Cllr Wright, who’s Grofield ward includes Tudor Street, said Ms Powell had shown her around the Melville and said: “Like her I don’t believe it will be suitable.” 

Cllr Wright said the scrutiny committee was told works to the Melville will take 12 to 16 weeks but no start date was given, but she would “reluctantly” support the cabinet decision so the TIC Well Being Hub could be used “as soon as possible”. 

But she said: “This does not mean I have accepted the inevitable permanent closure of Tudor Street or will I ever see service users forced to the Melville against their express wishes if they find their temporary base at the Well Being Hub is better suited to their needs.” 

Conservative Cllr John criticised the council for a lack of engagement with local campaigner, and disability rights researcher, Professor David Abbott who has said the TIC building isn’t accessible for all My Day, My Life users. 

A number of councillors also questioned the condition of the Melville Centre, which is a listed building, and said it suffers from water damage and a roof that needs to be repaired. 

The cabinet decision was accepted by 23 votes to 22.