Theatres bosses cut overspend – but budget rises

Annie is on at the Connaught Theatre in Worthing until Saturday (April 29)
Annie is on at the Connaught Theatre in Worthing until Saturday (April 29)

Worthing’s taxpayer-funded theatres overspent by £25,000 in the last year, prompting celebration from council bossses three years after the facilities cost nearly £500,000 more than budgeted.

Projected figures for the 2016/17 financial year show a ‘marginal’ overspend on the £1.4millon budget.

But taxpayers are set to pay a higher subsidy in the coming year, as the budget will rise by around £189,000 – more than the sum to be raised by a two per cent council tax rise.

Worthing Borough Council said the latest figures were a ‘remarkable turnaround’ and that budgets would increase each year because of ‘inflationary pressures’.

Conservative councillor Luke Proudfoot, who was critical of the budget increase when it was scrutinised in January, said: “As the theatres overspend goes down we need to remember that the overall budget continues to rise each year.

“I believe that now is the right time for a charitable trust to take over Worthing Theatres and relieve Worthing taxpayers of these costs.”

Increased profits on events, more repeat visitors and extra ticket revenue were among the factors credited for the overspend reduction, which ballooned to £484,000 in 2014.

Councillor Heather Mercer, cabinet member for customer services, said: “I am so thrilled by this news. We’ve gone on a long, hard journey but a combination of tough costs controls and a brilliant programme of events under head of culture Amanda O’Reilly has turned this into a success story.”

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Bob Smytherman welcomed recent success of the theatres but said there were ‘unanswered questions about the level of public subsidy’ required.

“I look forward to the forthcoming review of our theatres to dig deeper,” he said.

A council spokesman said the budget increase took into account increased costs like wage rises.

They said: “The council allows for a general one per cent increase in salaries, two per cent on all supplies and services and an additionalone per cent in pension costs for services delivered by the joint committee.

“The theatres service has increased expected income from 2016/17 to 2017/18 by around £150,000, but with salary budgets of £1.8million, the impact of salary inflation alone is £98,000.”

Worthing Theatres is formed of three venues: the Connaught Theatre, Pavilion Theatre and Assembly Hall.