Controversial plans to spend £650,000 on refurbishing Dudley Town Hall’s bar and catering facilities are expected to be hotly debated next week as councillors argue whether the scheme should go ahead.
Labour and Conservative members will scrutinise the proposal which is likely to become a political football during the up-coming local elections.
A report to the Place Scrutiny Committee says the refurbishment could make the town hall a ‘key player’ in reviving the town’s evening economy.
The venue plays host to music, concerts, shows, dances, fashion shows, exhibitions and comedy acts throughout the year.
Council officers have said at present, the amount visitors spend is extremely low because customers tend to drink at other bars prior to shows, during intervals and after performances ‘due to the inadequate facilities.’
The report predicts the proposal would boost takings by £50,000 in 2020/21 with an additional surplus of £100,000 in 2021/22.
The scheme has already lead to clashes between leading councillors.
Cllr Patrick Harley, Conservative group leader and a publican, speaking in February said the planned expenditure could refurbish an entire pub.
“As someone who has experience of running bars and investing in them, £650,000 is a hell of a lot of money.
“Having seen some pub refurbishments, that amount would probably rebuild an entire pub.”
But Cllr Qadar Zada, Labour council leader, said the proposal had originally been proposed when the Conservatives were in control of the authority, adding the bar would open during the day and the projected increase in revenue was also linked to higher ticket sales.
Defending the proposal he said: “The amount this council wants to spend is very, very modest.
"In comparison Wolverhampton has invested £38 million (on Civic Halls) and we are here bickering about something you were all party too and we are now seeing through”
Councillors will discuss the proposal at their meeting on March 28.