North East Wales

Denbighshire cabinet member sacked in cinema row

Councillor Rhiannon Hughes
Image caption Rhiannon Hughes said she wonders "how those rumours start"

A council leader has sacked one of his predecessors from his cabinet over "untrue rumours" about the possible closure of a cinema.

Denbighshire leader Hugh Evans said Rhiannon Hughes had not corrected "misleading" talk about the Scala Cinema and Arts Centre in Prestatyn.

He said she undermined his position and damaged the council's reputation, after it pledged commitment to the centre.

She voiced disappointment and said her "responsibility is with the community".

The sacking came eight days after Mr Evans issued a statement denying the centre was facing closure.

He said at the time: "We are extremely concerned that these rumours are circulating as they are not true."

He added: "The council sees the Scala as a very important facility for both the people of Prestatyn and the county as a whole."

He has now issued a fresh statement, saying he had exercised his power as leader to remove Ms Hughes.

He said: "Despite my personal and public assurance to Councillor Hughes regarding mine and the council's commitment to the future of the Scala, she has not made any effort to correct the misleading and misinformed rumours despite knowing otherwise.

"This has not only undermined my position, but damages the reputation of the council.

Image caption The Scala was given a £3.5m facelift when it opened its doors again after closing in 2000

"This is not the action I would expect from a lead member for customers and communities, or any member of the cabinet.

"Indeed, the code of conduct requires that members do not conduct themselves in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing their office or authority into disrepute."

Ms Hughes was ousted as council leader in a vote of no confidence in 2007 following critical reports on the county's education service.

She is chair of the Scala board, which last week pledged to cut £40,000 in costs this financial year.

She said she was disappointed with the decision and did not agree with it, adding: "It's a shame that I have been removed from the cabinet.

"I have worked with the community for 10 years while the Scala was shut, and when we re-opened it.

"It's a building owned by the community.

"There have been some rumours around the town and the leader obviously feels I should have scotched those rumours, but my responsibility is with the community."

She said there had been a variety of rumours, but added: "The Scala is not going to close, and you wonder how those rumours start."

The Scala closed in 2000 but re-opened in February 2009 after a £3.5m facelift

However, it has failed to generate the visitor numbers it hoped for, with 6,000 fewer than its 50,000 target in the past year.

In May, Denbighshire council approved an £86,000 bail-out plan to rescue the centre, which at the time had an £84,000 deficit and is expected to lose more this financial year.

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