Adur, West & East Worthing Party including East Arun

Worthing Theatres – ‘Tories get excited over nothing’ says Lib Dem group leader

No end in sight for daily loss of £3000

 

Worthing Borough Council Tory administration have today issued a press release saying they are excited over the business case prepared by the in-house management to make 25% savings.  Worthing Liberal Democrats are not as excited as they do not believe the document can be considered a business case in any true sense of the word.

It was Leader of the Council Paul Yallop who first quoted the £3000 a day cost which equates to £1,095,000 annually. It was the Tory Cabinet who rejected 17 bids from outside parties and instructed the present theatre management to come up with 25% savings.  Liberal Democrats calculate that to be £273,750 but the figures seem to be a movable feast as the required savings calculated when the business plan was commissioned had reduced to £230,000.

Now according to todays press statement they are down to £190,000 without a finger being lifted. Liberal Democrats suspect this is because of the changing language to describe the loss as the press release carefully refers to “net operating cost”. The Tories main asset appears to be creative accounting.

The business plan has nothing really new except bringing catering back in house and a new digital projector.

The plan requires even more spending in both staff and capital outlay which will only add to the £3,000 a day being lost at the moment, which Liberal Dem0crats thought was the reason the outside bids were rejected as they would have initially increased the cost to Worthing Borough Council tax payers.

The rules seem to be different for different players!

The consideration of the 17 bids was held ‘behind closed doors’ so Liberal Democrats don’t know how they would compare but their instincts are they would have stood up well against this in-house effort.

There has been no opportunity to scrutinise the business plan in public and little effort to consult – once again a decision on Worthing residents’ assets are being taken without any say from those residents.

Worthing Liberal Democrats pleaded with the Tories to allow scrutiny in public before any decision is taken but they met with a flat refusal and the Tory Cabinet alone will debate and make the decision.

Worthing Borough Lib Dem Group Leader Alan Rice commented:

“We are far from excited. Over a year ago I chaired the Budget Advisory Group and the one cross-party decision made was to deal with the haemorrhaging loss of money from the theatres.  Over one million pounds further down the line and we have not progressed at all.  To quote Mr Yallop £3000 loss a day – now with no end in sight. The Cabinet are only recommended to note and welcome the report – again no real decision.  We have no desire to close the theatres but there must be a better way to revitalise them. As there has been no debate in public and little consultation we intend to ‘call-in’ in this ‘decision’ to welcome the report to ensure that a full debate and public scrutiny takes place. After all, the theatres belong to the residents of Worthing – they deserve to have their say.”

Notes to Editors:

News Release from Adur and Worthing councils

Exciting plans for the Worthing Theatres

Worthing Borough Council’s senior theatres management team has produced a business plan as previously agreed to reduce the net operating cost of the theatres service, by at least 25%, whilst producing a sustainable and viable theatre offer for the future. This plan will be considered by the Joint Strategic Committee at 6.30pm on Tuesday 27th March at the Adur Civic Centre.

The report highlights the main areas for generating additional income and the investment required which has been considered by the Theatres Working Group to meet the challenging financial targets set by the Council in the future management and operation of the Worthing Theatres.

The highlights of the draft plan include:

·        Providing a viable and sustainable theatre offer at the Connaught Theatre, Pavilion Theatre and in the Ritz Digital Cinema

·        Recommending that the Council continues to operate at the Assembly Hall, but on a reduced programme of activities. Primary focus is on the Wurlitzer Organ concerts, the Worthing Symphony Orchestra and classical concerts alongside private hire events such as dance and the London Taxi event

·        Bringing the theatres catering in-house which will offer improved service and many opportunities for the venues

·        Installing a new box office system that will improve the booking service to theatregoers and is the key to unlocking many exciting new initiatives to improve the theatre experience in Worthing

·        Installing a new digital projector in the Connaught Theatre to offer an improved cinematic experience

·        Introducing a ticket levy to fund future improvements to the facilities

·        Exploring opportunities for attracting sponsors and other external funding streams

·        Increasing staff resources to ensure the business plan can be implemented

The report sets out how the above initiatives and many others planned will generate a substantial increase in income from running the theatres, some of which will be put towards future improvements, but also making an substantial contribution to meeting the savings target and reducing the subsidy by £190,000 per annum.

The report and draft business plan can be found on www.worthing.gov.uk.