Time to get a grip on theatre finances

I REFER to your lead news story in Worthing Herald on March 1 regarding the financial management of Worthing Theatres.

In your article you published a statement from Mr Yallop.

Four critical points require highlighting:-

1. “I am not able to confirm that figure (£300,000) – it is not the end of the financial year until April – the accounts will be available then”.

2. “Talking of a loss of £3,000 per day is simplistic.”

3. “The draft business plan is being worked on and will be considered at the joint scrutiny committee on 27 March.”

4. “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.”

As a resident I am appalled to learn that:-

A. Worthing Borough Council has no clear management control of our theatre finances; if it had, Mr Yallop would know the monthly operational costs and profit and loss position. No small or medium- size commercial undertaking in our town operates in this manner – why should the council?

B. Mr Yallop informed the town by public statement on September 24, 2010, and through your paper in June, 2011, that our theatres required £3,000 subsidy per day. If this statement is considered simplistic today (March 2, 2012) what credence do we now give to his assertion that “if we closed the doors they (our theatres) would still probably cost £700,000 (per annum) because they are listed and we can’t just let them fall into disrepair”. No one wishes these venues to close: we do need improved operational and financial management.

C. We learn that a draft business plan is being worked on. However, why has it taken more than 100 days to prepare and submit this document? No commercial organisation in this town, faced with this financial scenario,would take this length of time to react.

D. Will bringing catering in-house achieve the savings required? I do not know, but through family involvement with international hospitality organisations I find this assertion hard to accept.

The residents of Worthing want vibrant, well managed and cost- effective theatre and concert venues.

We are entitled to have professionally competent personnel in charge – after all, the residents pay the bills.

I urge all residents of Worthing to take a more active interest in the business, social and cultural life of our town. We need more employment, improved quality of support services and vibrant cultural life, but these require equally supportive cost-effective and efficient management by our elected representatives and paid officers of our council.

Only by improving our collective involvement in our community, holding all locally elected representatives and council officers to account, will our children and grandchildren have a future they aspire to.

David Mulvagh

Congreve Road