Debate on Leamington’s Pump Room fails to protect gallery and museum

The Pump Room in Leamington.
The Pump Room in Leamington.

An attempt to halt plans to explore the commercial potential of Leamington’s Pump Room has failed.

Following Warwick District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee’s intervention into senior councillors’ decision to spend £30,000 on market testing the iconic building, a cross-party debate between all councillors was held on Wednesday. But after an hour of deliberations, the Conservatives pushed forward their Tory cabinet’s original decision.

Asking for criteria that the Pump Room continue to house its gallery, museum and library and maintain free public access, Cllr Alan Boad (Lib Dem, Leamington Crown), said: “If we are going to the market, it’s only fair to those interested parties that we put down this very clear criteria.

“We would like the executive to re-think that decision to have unfettered bids.”

But Cllr Gerry Guest (Con, Warwick South) clearly thought this would be a bad idea, stating: “If we tell any outside body interested in the building that access will have to be free, you can forget about this whole thing.”

Echoing council leader Cllr Andrew Mobbs when he spoke to the Courier earlier this month, Cllr Sue Gallagher (Con, Leek Wootton), said: “The Pump Room is costing the taxpayer £876,000 a year and it would be wrong for the council to not be looking into how those costs could be reduced.

“We need a common sense approach - not hysteria. In the long term, most of our taxpayers are looking for value for money.”

Cllr Boad’s motion was narrowly defeated, with 19 in favour and 20 - 19 Conservative, one Independent - against. Cllr Mobbs then proposed that the executive’s original decision to market test the building goes ahead. This was approved, 20 votes to 19 in a mirror image of the previous vote.

The study will also look into exploring the commercial potential of the Jephson Gardens restaurant and Leamington town hall.