Theatres cut budget overspend by £300k

OVERSPENDING on Worthing’s theatres has been significantly slashed amid a record year for show sell-outs.

The theatres were £184,000 over budget in the 2014/15 financial year, drawing praise from councillors after the previous year’s £484,000 overspend.

While acknowledging there was still work to do, Worthing Borough Council cabinet members were reassured by increased ticket sales and above average repeat bookings.

Head of culture Amanda O’Reilly said: “We are delighted with the success this year.

“There is still work to do but this is great progress and the figures show that once people discover the range of quality productions we have to offer, they return, firmly establishing Worthing as a key player on the cultural map.”

The theatres team highlighted shows by top comedians Russell Howard and Alan Carr and hit play Mousetrap as examples of an improved cultural offer.

The year saw a 58,000 increase in ticket sales, raising £1.78 million.

The Cultural Economic Impact Study estimated a £5.2 million boost to the local economy as a result. A total of 154 shows sold out – the most in the theatres’ history.

Cabinet member for customer services Heather Mercer said: “I am delighted at the success of the theatres team in securing such outstanding shows for Worthing and this is reflected in the significant improvement in ticket sales.”

The theatres budget hit the headlines last year, after the significant overspend.

The figures led former leader Paul Yallop to declare the service was ‘in intensive care’.

Council officers employed ‘robust financial management’ to cut the overspend this year, while the Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee conducted a review into the theatres’ performance.

The overspend this year relates to salaries, marketing and a shortfall on budgeted income.

Leader Dan Humphreys said: “It’s not just about the money we are spending, when you look at the product we have in Worthing it is vastly superior.”

Worthing Lib Dem leader Keith Sunderland said the theatres were now on the up and was also supportive of the work done by the team this year.