ROOMS at Swansea’s new indoor arena have been named after serving Labour councillors in a move described as “vanity gone mad” by an opposition leader.
Three rooms were named after cabinet members Robert Francis-Davies, David Hopkins and Andrea Lewis at the multi-million pound entertainment venue before complaints led to the move being paused.
Council leader Rob Stewart said the thinking was “to recognise the unique contribution” the councillors had made to the project and that it was a cost-free thing to do.
However, after bewilderment and criticism from political opponents, Cllr Stewart has announced he would pause the naming in order to have a wider conversation with all parties.
Cllr Lyndon Jones, leader of Swansea Conservatives, said people who had been in touch with him about the naming were “astonished”.
“It’s vanity gone mad,” he said. “Whilst they (the three councillors) are decent people, this is a step too far and a missed opportunity, because the rooms should surely have been named after famous sons and daughters from Swansea, like the people who have received the Freedom of the City of Swansea, or people from the world of entertainment like Sir Harry Secombe or Bonnie Tyler.”
Cllr Stewart said Cllr Francis-Davies, who is cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, has served as a councillor for more than 35 years and had played a big role in regeneration projects as well as being a former Loyd Mayor of Swansea and deputy council leader.
“Other councillors past and present and people who have made a significant contribution will be considered as we bring other new developments online,” said Cllr Stewart.
He said the authority had in recent times recognised ex-councillor Paul Valerio, of the Conservatives, as alderman for his service to Swansea.
Cllr Lewis is joint deputy council leader and cabinet member for climate change and service transformation, while Cllr Hopkins is joint deputy leader and cabinet member for delivery and operations.
The Labour administration has driven forward the arena project, which is part of the wider £135m Copr Bay scheme. The arena is expected to cost just under £50m.
John Bishop, who performs there on March 15, is the first of several high-profile comedians taking to the stage. Rock duo Royal Blood play on March 19, while Alice Cooper and The Cult are in action on May 23.
Cllr Chris Holley, the leader of the Liberal Democrat-Independent opposition group, said he felt the room naming was “absolutely ridiculous”.
He said he had nothing against the three councillors but objected to naming something after a serving politician.
“It’s just vain, inappropriate and wrong,” he said. “It reminds me a bit of North Korea. What are we going to have next, the Rob Stewart stadium?”
A new street within the Copr Bay scheme has commemorated champion Swansea sprinter Cyril Cupid, who was the son of a Welsh woman and West Indian zinc worker.
The council hopes to name the new coastal park by the arena after Swansea writer, businesswoman and benefactor Amy Dillwyn.
Cllr Francis-Davies said he didn’t know anything about the room naming beforehand.
“I felt quite humbled by it, to be honest,” he said.
Cllr Lewis said it was also a surprise to her.
“I felt really honoured to have that accolade,” she said. “It was really touching.”
Cllr Hopkins said: “I have never been so shocked in my life. I was quite humbled by it all.”
He added: “If anyone deserved it, it should be Rob Stewart.”
Cllr Jones suggested Labour councillors’ names “would be better placed over the doors of the many empty shops in Swansea”.
Cllr Stewart contacted the Local Democracy Reporting Service to say the room naming was being put on hold.
“I’m going to pause the naming of those rooms, given that people have raised concerns,” he said.