Worthing Theatres box office system upgrade failure

TAXPAYERS could lose £30,000 after a new theatre ticket booking system failed to work.

But Worthing councillors hoped the money could be recouped from the contractor without resorting to even more costly legal action.

They said the box office computer system, covering the council-run Connaught, Ritz, Pavilion and Assembly Hall venues, failed a final test in September, 2010, and never went “live”.

Mary Lermitte, cabinet member for improved customer services, blamed software problems, saying the system failed to cope with the multitude of seating plans and different layouts at the Worthing venues.

But the council had handed over £30,000 of the £109,851.37 cost before blocking further payments.

Minimise costs

With major cuts in spending looming, Miss Lermitte told the borough’s overview and scrutiny committee: “It appeared to be fit for purpose, and it wasn’t.

“We shall be seeking to get that money back. We certainly won’t be giving them any more.”

She told the Herald she hoped there would be minimal or no residual cost to the taxpayer, but that it was not her judgement to make.

After the meeting, she added: “Clearly, it is unfortunate that the box office system failed to achieve the promised and anticipated outcomes.

“The council undertook all appropriate efforts to purchase a system which, had it worked properly, would have greatly enhanced the council’s marketing potential for all four theatre venues.

Budget cuts

“This could have increased income at a time when the council is suffering severe budgetary cuts.

“We have now reverted back to our previous box office system, which, although it has more limited marketing potential, functions well as a ticketing system.

“When current matters are resolved, members will again consider how to move forward with a possible replacement of this system.”

John Thorpe, the council’s executive head of leisure and cultural services, told the committee: “It’s very important that every effort is made to sort the problem out with negotiation. I think they are trying to be accommodating.”

He said courts would take “a dim view” if every effort to settle the issue had not been made.

Paul Yallop, leader of the council, said: “It’s a rather unfortunate situation, bad news for the theatres, and bad news for taxpayers, but I am hoping the suppliers will put up their hands and send the money back.”