The head of Cork City Council has confirmed the city is ready to take over management of the Cork Vision Centre from Cork Civic Trust after a row over funding and its future direction.
New uses for the visitor attraction are already being considered, with Cllr Sean Martin (FF) suggesting the council play a key role in the city’s 1916 centenary celebrations. Officials say they are currently considering the proposal.
The trust, which has managed the building for the last 17 years, has received some €3.08m in city council funding since 2001 to manage and run the council-owned facility. The city funds 96.5% of the Vision Centre costs.
Last year, City Hall asked the trust to “reimagine” a future use for the building and to lessen its reliance on city funding.
Last month, after a year of negotiations, the trust announced it would withdraw from management of the centre in December.
The trust described the move as regrettable but claimed it had been “essentially forced” on it after “roadblocks” were put in its way during negotiations with City Hall.
Council chief executive Ann Doherty confirmed she has now written to the trust informing it that the city is ready to take over management of the facility when the trust withdraws in December. She insisted the building will remain open to the public.
She also launched a robust defence of her officials who have dealt with the trust over the last year or so.
“The staff of Cork City Council have at all times acted appropriately and in the public interest, and this entire exercise has been directly focused on securing the best possible outcome for the investment of public monies by the city council,” Ms Doherty said.
“The only objectives for the council in this matter have been to secure value for money for the city’s ratepayers.”
Ms Doherty criticised the Vision Centre’s heavy reliance on council funding. “This is an unsustainable funding model for Cork Vision Centre and is contrary to good practice in cultural and arts funding,” she said.
“Other venues in Cork City raise revenue through a range of international, national, and regional grants from public bodies and through other earned income.”
Ms Doherty said the council last year ordered a review of the operation and management of the centre, and that what was presented could only be described as “an audit” of current operations rather than a strategic review.
She said the council again expressed its concerns and asked the trust to outline a new programme of work “which demonstrates innovation, quality, and relevance to the cultural fabric of the city”, supported by a business plan that would be independently assesses.
Despite further meetings, she said the trust decided to go public last month on its decision to withdraw from management of the Vision Centre.
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