£300k and rising – OUR Worthing theatres’ bill

WHILE Worthing Council decides the future of the town’s theatres, they continue to cost taxpayers £3,000 each day.

Since the end of the public tender process in November, in which groups wishing to run the theatres were invited to submit a bid, taxpayers have had to underwrite a loss of £300,000.

Despite months of consultation between the council and three bidders, who were chosen from 17 interested parties, the council decided none of the proposals offered the savings required.

At the time, the council said the theatres’ management team would prepare a business plan to deliver “substantial savings” and end the high subsidy levels necessary to keep the venues open, however, the business plan is still not ready.

In June last year, Paul Yallop, leader of the council, told the Herald: “I am hoping for an outcome which will both keep the venues open and reduce the £3,000 daily subsidy required from our council taxpayers.”

Concerned resident David Mulvagh contacted the Herald this week to say the same losses were still continuing – eight months on.

He said: “No small or medium commercial enterprise could carry losses of £3,000 per day in this, or any other, economic climate. Why do we allow our much-needed theatres to continue to suffer from management inertia when they are a critical part of our community?”

Yesterday, Mr Yallop said he wished to reassure residents that a business plan for the theatres was being drawn up, but refused to confirm if they had made a loss of at least £300,000.

He said: “I am not able to confirm that figure – it is not the end of the financial year until April – the accounts will be available then.

“Talking of a loss of £3,000 a day is a very simplistic view of a very complicated issue – the theatres cost a total of £1.2million to run each year, if we shut the doors they would still probably cost £700,000, because they are listed and we can’t just let them fall into disrepair.

“But we know the public don’t want that, 17,000 people signed a petition to say they wanted the theatres to stay open.”

Mr Yallop said the draft business plan is being worked on and will be considered at the joint scrutiny committee meeting on March 27.

“My officers assure me the plan will demonstrate how we can make a 25 per cent saving on the cost, such as by bringing the catering in-house,” he said.

Confidentiality agreements mean bids submitted by the three parties during the public tender process cannot be revealed, but Mr Yallop said he was disappointed none of them had been able to offer savings for theatre running costs.

He added: “It wasn’t a wasted process, because we have gained important knowledge, but obviously it took time without a positive outcome.”