Worthing Liberal Democrats Weekly Newsletter - 25th to 31st March 2012 - Adur & Worthing Liberal Democrats
Adur, West & East Worthing Party including East Arun

Worthing Liberal Democrats Weekly Newsletter – 25th to 31st March 2012

Articles for the past week:

Leader:  Third act      

News this past week:

1.  Adur & Worthing Leaders Put In Their Place

2.  Tories Not So Excited On Theatres

3.  Aquarena – No News Is Good News?

4.  Broadwater Neighbourhood Forum

5.  A27 Improvements To Be Funded By Private Sector?

WORTHING LIBERAL DEMOCRATS WEEKLY NEWSLETTER 25TH TO 31ST MARCH 2012

Lib Dems will keep Worthing’s services local

Lib Dems will get on with bringing our town into the 21st century – no more dither and delay

Lib Dems will ensure ‘We are all in it together’ – no more waste and high pay

Lib Dems are the only opposition in Worthing – Labour can’t win here

Lib Dems support 20 mph in Worthing’s residential roads

Leader:  Third act

We said last week theatres could run and run and a twist in the tale has brought us back for a third act – a third time in three weeks.  Last week we reported on Worthing Borough Council’s press release on the theatres headlined “Exciting plans for the Worthing theatres”.  We couldn’t get that excited but from our reading of the press release we understood the Tories could.  Not so apparently as Tory Leader of the Council Paul Yallop couldn’t even give lukewarm praise at the Joint Strategic Committee on Monday night.

Had Mr Yallop not authorised the press release?  Had Mr Yallop not read the press release? Had Mr Yallop not seen the press release?  It would appear from his comments to the Herald he had seen the press release but owing to pressure of work had not read the press release. We are not sure whether that means he had authorised the press release or not, or indeed whether authorisation is part of his remit.  The previous week he did say proof reading was not part of his remit, and hence did not spot the error in the council tax leaflet where budget figures were stated in millions and not correctly in thousands.

Liberal Democrats’ member of the Theatres Working Group David Chapman did read the press release and he certainly had not authorised it.

As David says in his issued statement:

“Exciting Plans for Worthing Theatres?

I am a member of the Worthing Borough Council Theatres Working Group that has recently considered the bids for the external Management of the Theatres and the present in-house Business Plan produced by the Theatres Management Team.

I have to say that as a member of the Theatres Working Group, I was not aware that such a press release ‘Exciting Plans for the Worthing Theatres’ was to be published.   It was not discussed at any of the meetings of the group, and I was not in any way consulted on the content.     It disagrees with my perception of the situation and I would like my views to be known.

I do not think the statement that this Business Plan ‘was exciting’ truly reflects the feelings of all the members of the working party, particularly the Councillors.

In point of fact, although the Theatre Management Team has had over two months to produce this plan, it only emerged on the Friday prior to the Monday meeting on the 12th March.    Most Councillors only managed to get a copy of the plan on the Monday morning hours prior to the meeting. I received my official copy on the Thursday after the meeting.

My protests that we did not have enough time to fully consider the Business plan and that having considered the plan it should come back to the Theatres Working Group was dismissed because ‘it would slow the process of introducing these necessary steps to achieve the savings.’

We cannot but welcome the various initiatives that the Theatre Management have put together.   They will go some way towards improving the theatre provision and should shave something off the deficit.

However, the point was made by many people, including the Leader of the Council, Paul Yallop, that there is nothing new in these measures that could not have been actioned years ago.   It would have removed the necessity of going through last years expensive and time consuming procurement process.

One is left with a lack of confidence of the commitment of the Management Team to follow through.    We have already seen the disastrous attempt to introduce one new booking system – can the same team now promise and guarantee any better on a second attempt?

The point was also made that one of the bidders, The Worthing Theatres Trust, who had a put in an unsuccessful expression of interest, and had stated that they retained an interest and would be happy to continue to support the Worthing theatres.  They offered what amounts to a free consultancy to help the Theatres Team in the development of a Business Plan.    It would have been a powerful endorsement of the plan, giving the Working Party more confidence in taking it forward.   Officers had made no move to involve the Trust in the business planning, or even to allow them to see a copy of the document to get their official comments and reaction.

As for the plan itself.   The Theatres Working Party – particularly the Councillors were not overly happy with the content.    It contains a great deal of operational and background material that is not really relevant.   It does not provide adequately costed balance sheets to show how the savings will be achieved, or the action plans to show how these targets will be implemented and the monitoring process to do so.

Figures are not clear – but whilst it shows that it will reduce the subsidy, it also shows a capital outlay of near £600,000 to achieve this, to be paid in part by a ticket levy.   There are also additional costs of £55,000 a year included in order to facilitate the Business Plan and there was some question as to the accurate costings of these staffing proposals.

Several suggestions where made by the Working party in discussing the Business Plan – for example looking wider in terms of the attraction of audience, working in concert with other theatre managers to book shows at more competitive rates.   It was not clear that the Management Team had taken on board the difference between overall income and marginal income.    There is no evidence of these views in the revised plan.   It was also remarked that we were not sure that officers had taken on board members views.

Some of the bids submitted in the external expressions of interest that were considered last year by the Working Party could have revitalised our theatres with external management and the offer of as much as £2 million pounds in capitalisation of the Theatres for refurbishment, even if the management or subsidy costs remained at the level they are at the moment.   The Business Plan presented to the Theatres Working Group compared poorly to the well presented and detailed submissions by the bidders for the theatres concession – in some cases show by show – of how they would run the business.  The present management – had they put this plan in as a bid at that time in that arena – it would have fallen at the first hurdle.

Comments have been made about the time taken to produce the Business Plan – and questions could be asked as to whether the excuse of the extra work on the Pantomime is sufficient.   One would expect that most of the work goes into the programming, promoting and setting up of these events – and once in place it is just a matter of ensuring the ticketing and staffing are in place.   If, as Paul Yallop says in his letter on this subject to the Herald (March 22nd), that there are £294,000 of ‘support charges’ in running the theatres, some of which would assumed to be line management costs, then it is reasonable to expect a working and competent business plan provided to a timetable to enable everyone to fully comment and participate.

One of the arguments given for keeping the Theatres in house was that there was a change in senior council staff that would facilitate entrepreneurial approaches that had previously been stifled.   There is little evidence of that.

It is not to say that there are not a lot of good things in the plan – but there are a lot of deficiencies that are being glossed over.

Nearly everyone who is contributing to the debate about the Theatres shares in the wish to have a vibrant theatre provision in the town and a case could be made for justifying continued subsidisation as long as it can be proved we are getting value for money.     The reality is that almost all local theatres would not exist without a municipal subsidy – but it is the present Conservative administration that announced the need to produce savings on the Theatres Budget and that now seems to be making such a hash of implementing them.

Perhaps there is a need for a more radical plan for the Theatres that moves Council Officers outside their zones of comfort.”

Worthing Liberal Democrats 

NEWS FROM THE PAST WEEK

ADUR & WORTHING LEADERS PUT IN THEIR PLACE

Monday 26th March –  Tonight saw the special Joint Overview & Scrutiny Committee (JOSC) called to question the Leaders of Adur & Worthing Councils on their decision to remove budget scrutiny from the JOSC work programme. Adur Independent Council Lisa McKinney chaired the meeting which reminded the two leaders the work programme is the sole responsibility of the committee and is not to be tampered with.  The Leaders protested innocence and the Chief Executive of the two councils took the wrap as the Monitoring Officer was not present.  The leaders and officers were firmly put in their place as the committee unanimously passed a resolution ensuring the budget will be in next year’s work programme.

JOSC Committee Member Bob Smytherman said: “It is outrageous the JOSC work programme was interfered with in this way.  The setting of the budget and hence the council tax is the most important decision of the year for Worthing’s residents.  If it had come before the committee we may have ended up with a lower council tax as Cllr McKinney reminded us happened a few years ago in Adur.  And we may have had our bus services back on evenings and Sundays.”

TORIES NOT SO EXCITED ON THEATRES

Monday 26th March – Worthing Liberal Democrats were left scratching their heads as Tory Leader of the Council criticised the theatres business plan brought to tonight’s Joint Strategic Committee (JSC) meeting.  Only the Friday before Worthing Borough Council had put out a press release heralding the business plan headlined “Exciting plans for the Worthing theatres.”  Not so exciting as to get backing from the Tory leader, the Tory Cabinet Member for Customer Services responsible for theatres or indeed the rest of the Tory Cabinet.  The message to the in-house management was think again and come back with a more serious plan.  The plan has been kicked into the long grass during the election period and will not be considered until the next JSC in June.

Worthing Lib Dem Group Leader Alan Rice said: “In view of Friday’s press release we did expect  the Tory Cabinet to welcome the business plan and we were all ready to “call in” the decision. Now we will have to wait and see for at least another three months at £3000 a day loss – another £270,000 plus sacrificed from Worthing’s council tax payers .  The Tories plead poverty when we ask them to spend small amounts but appear to have plenty of money to burn.”

AQUARENA – NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS?

Monday 26th March – The press and public were instructed to leave tonight’s Joint Strategic Committee while Worthing and indeed Adur councillors were updated on the progress of the sale of the Aquarena site.  The update was private as the issue was deemed commercially sensitive under the Local Government Act.  Worthing and Adur Councillors are entitled to know but Worthing residents still have no news on the sale of their own assets.

Worthing Lib Dem Group Leader Alan Rice said:  “When will Worthings residents know what is happening?  When will Worthing’s residents know if there will be enough money to finance the new pool?  Is no news good news?  I would love to tell you but I can’t possibly comment.”

BROADWATER NEIGHBOURHOOD FORUM

Wednesday 28th March – West Sussex County Council Chief Executive Kieran Stigant visited Broadwater this afternoon and met with representatives of Broadwater’s voluntary and faith groups. The meeting was primarily to explore the possibility of the groups coming together to form a Broadwater Neighbourhood Forum. The forum would take more responsibility for local works and regeneration in line with the localism agenda. This could range from simply taking over weeding of the pavements all the way up to a full blown Parish Council.  Lib Dem Broadwater County Councillor laid out the various levels the forum could become involved in and Kieran Stigant answered any questions raised.  The groups entered into the discussion with gusto and went away with plenty to think about.  They all agreed it was a very worthwhile meeting and have already planned for another. David Hill, Broadwater Baptist Minister, kindly hosted the event and provided tea and cakes. Other groups represented included South Broadwater Residents Association, Broadwater Police Neighbourhood Panel, Mick’s Garage, the Community House, Worthing Borough Council Community Development Department, West Sussex County Council Communities & Economic Development Department, Albion in the Community, St Marys Church, Elim Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

A27 IMPROVEMENTS TO BE FUNDED BY PRIVATE SECTOR?

Wednesday 28th March – West Sussex today issued a press release welcoming a call from the Prime Minister for an urgent increase in private investment to improve the road network. David Cameron’s speech on infrastructure, in which he argued private sector financing could pay to upgrade the UK’s busiest roads, was seen as a solution to the congested A27 trunk road in West Sussex. The authority has been continuing to press the need for improvements along the A27, particularly around the traffic bottlenecks at Worthing, Arundel and Chichester.   This would not necessarily be toll roads in the normal accepted sense, with motorists paying, but could be “shadow tolls” paid by the Highways Agency for the provision of the road improvements.

DIARY

Monday 2nd April – WBC Licensing and Control Committee B  Premier Supermarket Express – Gordon Room, Town Hall at 6.00 pm

Tuesday 3rd April – ADC & WBC Joint Governance and Audit Committee – Gordon Room, Town Hall at 6.30 pm

Wednesday 5th April – Lib Dem Northbrook/Durrington Ward Surgery – The Durrington Community Centre, New Road 7.30 to 8.30 pm

Saturday 7th April – Lib Dem Castle Ward Surgery – The Strand Shops 10.00 to 10.30 am

Saturday 7th April – Lib Dem Central Ward Surgery – Sidney Walter Centre, Sussex Road 10.30 am to 12.00 noon

and every first Saturday of the month

Saturday 7th April – Lib Dem Gaisford/Tarring Castle Wards Surgery – West Worthing Baptist Church, South Street, Tarring 10.30 to noon

Saturday 7th April – Lib Dem Broadwater Surgery – The Community House, Dominion Road 2.00 to 4.00 pm

and every first Saturday of the month

FURTHER AHEAD

 

Tuesday 17th April – WBC Full Council Meeting – Council Chamber, Town Hall at 6.00 pm

Wednesday 18th April – WBC Planning Committee – Gordon Room, Town Hall at 6.00 pm

Thursday 19th April – WSCC Shadow West Sussex Health and Wellbeing Management Board – County Hall, Chichester at 2.15 pm

Friday 20th April – WSCC Environmental and Community Services Select Committee – County Hall, Chichester at 10.30 am

Monday 23rd April – WSCC Governance Committee – County Hall, Chichester at 2.15 pm

Tuesday 24th April – WSCC Cabinet Meeting – County Hall, Chichester at 10.30 am

Wednesday 25th April – WSCC Children and Young People’s Services Select Committee – County Hall, Chichester at 10.30 am

Wednesday 25th April – WSCC Pensions Panel – County Hall, Chichester at 10.30 am

Thursday 26th April – WSCC Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee – County Hall, Chichester at 10.30 am

Friday 27th April – WSCC Policy and Resources Select Committee – County Hall, Chichester at 10.30 am

Tuesday 1st May – WSCC Planning Committee – County Hall, Chichester at 10.30 am

Thursday 3rd May – Worthing Borough Council Elections

Thursday 17th May – WSCC West Sussex Joint Commissioning Board – County Hall, Chichester at 2.15 pm

Friday 18th May – WSCC Full County Council (meeting will be webcast) – County Hall, Chichester at 10.30 am

Friday 18th May – WBC Annual Council Meeting – Council Chamber, Town Hall at noon

Thursday 24th May – WSCC Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee – County Hall, Chichester at 10.30 am

Tuesday 29th May – WSCC Planning Committee – County Hall, Chichester at 10.30 am

Tuesday 29th May – WBC Planning Committee – Gordon Room, Town Hall at 6.00 pm

Thursday 31st May – WSCC Policy and Resources Select Committee – County Hall, Chichester at 10.30 am

Printed and hosted by  BIGEGO, P O Box 2095, West Sussex BN12 9AR
Published and promoted by Worthing Liberal Democrats, 18 Woodlea Road, Worthing, West Sussex BN13 1BN