STAFF at Brighton’s Royal Pavilion are today taking the first steps towards strike action after a controversial council vote.

Brighton and Hove City Council last night approved a plan to amalgamate the running of the Royal Pavilion, Museums and gardens under the Brighton Dome and Festival Ltd company.

The non-profit company has a poor reputation among staff, who say they have not been sufficiently consulted on the plan.

Now the GMB union will carry out its threat to hold a ballot, the first step towards strike action which could see the city’s most famous attractions closed to visitors this summer.

The vote was passed by Labour and Conservative councillors in the face of Green opposition at the policy, resources and growth committee at Hove Town Hall.

But Conservative councillor Steve Bell said: “This seems to have been a catastrophe behind the scenes in the way it’s been led by this administration.”

Council leader Warren Morgan said the transfer to the Dome-led contract, which will take place on July 1 after further “meaningful engagement” with unions and staff, was the right way to preserve the Pavilion, which he said was the city’s most important building.

Councillor Alan Robins, chairman of the tourism committee whose responsibility the plans have been, attended the meeting but does not sit on the committee.

After the vote he told The Argus: “What’s pleased me is that staff are now being listened to.”

Asked whether it had been his responsibility to listen to them before the city reached an impasse with the unions, Cllr Robins said: “Well, it was, yes. And you know, I accept that in some ways we didn’t.

“Having said that, I’ve been down there twice to the staff room, on my own, and faced the brickbats and the eggs they’ve thrown at me.

“We should have engaged more with them and I think now we will engage more with them.

“I’ve just said to them ‘don’t think of this as in any way a defeat, this is, for you, a victory. Because now everybody will have to listen to what you’ve got to say. And we’ll definitely have to engage with you’.”

GMB organiser Jo Viner said: “We’re going to have to speak to the membership.

“We made it very clear to all councillors involved they can’t say they weren’t meaningfully engaged, unlike the staff of the pavilion and museums. So we’ll go back to the staff and see what comes next.”

She said the next step was a consultative ballot, which paves the way for a ballot over strike action.

She added: “We have not been listened to. Meaningful engagement is difficult to have, when a decision’s already been made to go ahead.

“So I don’t know how it can be classed as meaningful engagement.

“And most engagement started about a week ago, knowing full well our position was that it hasn’t happened up to that point.”

Before the meeting started, GMB protesters waved placards opposing the plan.

One member of the Pavilion team, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “We don’t want to work for the Dome. We know what they’re like, we work right next door.”

About 220,000 people visited the Royal Pavilion last summer – between April and September – and a further 60,000 visited Brighton Museum.

Last year the gardens of the Royal Pavilion were put on Historic England’s at-risk register for the first time.

Council bosses said at the time the planned changes to the management to the Pavilion and its grounds would be an important measure to preserve and protect the gardens for future generations