Councillors want review into our ‘costly’ Towngate

Councillors want review into our ‘costly’ Towngate

Councillors want review into our ‘costly’ Towngate

First published in News

OPPOSITION leaders want a review of the Towngate Theatre after it cost taxpayers £747,000 to run last year.

More than £500,000 a year is also set to be spent keeping the Basildon town centre theatre open over the next four years, figures show.

On top of this, a further £600,000 will be spent on major repairs of the 1980s building, built in the 1980s.

This includes investing in a new roof and heating system, by 2016/17, accounts published by Basildon Council show.

Phil Turner, Tory council leader, played down the costs and said “in real terms” the loss-making theatre was costing taxpayers £250,000 to £300,000 to keep open.

However, a council draft budget shows in 2012/13 the total cost of running the theatre was £1.4million. After income it generated was taken into account, it left a net cost to the taxpayer of £747,000. Mr Turner said: “These figures are misleading because we can offset the fees of recharging the building to other departments within the council.

“I am assured by officers the real cost to the council is £250,000 to £300,000 a year.

“When we took over from Labour, the true net cost to the council was about £500,000, and we significantly reduced that.”

Although he would prefer to see it break even, he said £300,000 a year was worth paying to keep the theatre open.

He added: “The people of Basildon love the Towngate Theatre and we have now got a brilliant pantomime.”

However, Basildon Ukip group leader Kerry Smith claimed even £300,000 a year was too much.

He said: “When we are facing cuts and struggling to keep basic services, like keeping the place clean and tidy, we need to review to see if it could be run for to keep cheaper.

“The council needs to get to grips with this, as it is having to find £6million savings a year.

With that in mind, this could be one twelfth of what the council has to save.”

He said Ukip would not shut the theatre, but would look at ways of it making money, such as hiring it for more private functions, conferencing and opening the bar more.

He added: “We need to know what the true cost is if the budget gives one figure and the council leader another.”

Last month, the Echo revealed the council was bringing in theatre consultancy firm Charcoalblue to manage the venue while a new manager is found after a review found a series of failings.

But the authority denied it was a bid to privatise the service.

Meanwhile, the old heating systems in the Towngate will have to be replaced before the winter.

The council has hired Burgin Ltd to replace boilers and flues, at a cost of £152,000.

The current system was put in when the building was built and needs continual repair jobs.

This week it also gave a £122,000 contract to Acclaim Contractors to carry out roof replacement work.

Comments (3)

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12:12pm Mon 25 Aug 14

wobblybob says...

Quote: On top of this, a further £600,000 will be spent on major repairs of the 1980s building, built in the 1980s.
A 1980's building actually built in the 1980's - whatever next!
Quote: On top of this, a further £600,000 will be spent on major repairs of the 1980s building, built in the 1980s. A 1980's building actually built in the 1980's - whatever next! wobblybob
  • Score: 4

2:04pm Mon 25 Aug 14

cropped hero says...

This story is full of holes. Councillor Turnip tells us that the £747,000 deficit is misleading as it can be charged to other departments in the council. Well thats alright then isn't it.

Oh hang on a minute its still the council paying for the deficit!

'when labour was in control the deficit was 500k. We have reduced that.'

No Councillor you haven't. 747k is greater than 500k!

Why if Turner thinks it worth subsidising the theatre to 300k per annum has the Echo reported that 500k will be needed every year for the next 4 years in addtion to the 600k for repairs?

The only pantomine is the running of the council. I'll let others tell who is the village idiot, the ugly sisters, the wicked witch and Prince Charming.
This story is full of holes. Councillor Turnip tells us that the £747,000 deficit is misleading as it can be charged to other departments in the council. Well thats alright then isn't it. Oh hang on a minute its still the council paying for the deficit! 'when labour was in control the deficit was 500k. We have reduced that.' No Councillor you haven't. 747k is greater than 500k! Why if Turner thinks it worth subsidising the theatre to 300k per annum has the Echo reported that 500k will be needed every year for the next 4 years in addtion to the 600k for repairs? The only pantomine is the running of the council. I'll let others tell who is the village idiot, the ugly sisters, the wicked witch and Prince Charming. cropped hero
  • Score: 3

2:28pm Mon 25 Aug 14

Howard Cháse says...

The Towngate Theatre is a money pit.

They are continually throwing vast amounts of money at it.

It's never been economically viable as far as I can tell. The only part that ever made any money was back when the bar was open and was a thriving local scene. However because they didn't like the clientele of harmless and virtually trouble free hairies scaries and marys that spent loads of money across the bar they shut it down for years.
The Towngate Theatre is a money pit. They are continually throwing vast amounts of money at it. It's never been economically viable as far as I can tell. The only part that ever made any money was back when the bar was open and was a thriving local scene. However because they didn't like the clientele of harmless and virtually trouble free hairies scaries and marys that spent loads of money across the bar they shut it down for years. Howard Cháse
  • Score: 4

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