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New Chapter for Libraries and Cultural Services Starts Next Month

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Cabinet Members from Bridgend County Borough Council have confirmed that libraries, arts services, some community centres and venues including the Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl, Maesteg Town Hall and Bryngarw House and Country Park will be run by the new Awen Cultural Trust Ltd from 1 October.

Awen Cultural Trust will have charitable status, which will increase its eligibility for external grants and make it a more attractive proposition for sponsors and donors.

The buildings will still be owned by the council and a long-term lease will be granted to the trust for the duration of the partnership agreement.

In total, the services and venues that will transfer to the Awen Cultural Trust are:

  • Library services
  • Awel-y-Mor, Coity and Bettws community centres
  • Community and youth arts development
  • Bryngarw House and Country Park
  • Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl
  • Maesteg Town Hall
  • Blaengarw Workmen’s Hall
  • The B-Leaf and Wood-B work-related projects for adults with disabilities.

Councillor Hywel Williams, Cabinet Member for Communities, said:

“We are excited to confirm the start date for the new, dynamic, cultural trust which we believe will help us to achieve our ambitions of encouraging a passion for reading and knowledge, particularly among the younger generation, and putting culture and learning at the heart of our communities.

“We feel that our cultural services are currently in a strong position, but the reduced funding from central government is resulting in us having to find new ways of delivering many council services in the long term. In an environment of financial savings and budget cuts, there is always a concern that there will be cutbacks that have a negative impact on services, so the timing is right for this development, which instead offers a different but bright future for cultural services.

“Similar cultural trusts are already operating successfully in many parts of England. The services will be run in partnership with the council, similar to the way that Halo Leisure Ltd operates local leisure centres, and I would like to reassure residents that from their perspective the message is very much that it will be ‘business as usual’.”

Library users should continue to use their library cards and access services in the same way that they currently do, while all of the current websites, phone numbers and booking procedures for venues such as the Grand Pavilion, Maesteg Town Hall and Bryngarw House also remain unchanged.

Councillor Williams added:

“Our leisure centre partnership has already resulted in modernised facilities for residents to enjoy and I am sure that there will be many similar benefits for cultural services.

“The management agreement will cover 20 years so that the Awen Cultural Trust can have the time to establish itself and seek funding over a long period. The Trust will benefit from adopting a commercial, customer focused and demand-led approach where appropriate, which the council is unable to follow due to the policy constraints placed upon it. As a commissioner of the services, the council will set the strategic direction for the services and will continue to own the buildings.”

A board of eleven trustees was recently appointed for the Awen Cultural Trust, which will be led by Chair Alan Morgan.

Mr Morgan, who is currently the Managing Director of Hafod Housing Association, said:

“I am delighted to be nominated as Chair and to represent Awen Cultural Trust as it launches on 1 October. I have been hugely impressed with the quality of the facilities along with the enthusiasm and energy of all the staff.

“Our aim is to ensure the sustainability of these services but also to improve our offer by focusing on our customers – be they a library user, theatre goer or one of the diverse range of local group to which our venues are so important. My colleagues and I, as the board of trustees, look forward to working in partnership with the council to make Awen Cultural Trust a success and contribute to the cultural heritage of Bridgend County Borough.”

To find out more about the Awen Cultural Trust, please visit www.awen-wales.com.