Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Amateur theatricals

The big political issue since the local election in May has raged around the Kingston Theatre.

The Lib Dems, having scarcely mentioned the topic in their election material only three months ago, decided that the deal whereby GMH ( owned by local resident Mr. Auchi) was to put up the remaining £3.4 million to fit out the theatre was no go. Mr. A's advisers were trying to impose over-onerous conditions. When exactly the Administration members knew this was going to be the case remains a matter of some doubt, but what emerged a very short time after the election was that they had decided that the Council would find the necessary funds itself from wherever. Our Scrutiny Panel, now Conservative dominated, called in the Executive's decision and found that it had not fulfilled its fiduciary duty to the CT payers in taking on a new commitment with budgetary implications which was risky and for which there was no electoral mandate. The decision was referred back to them, they having already decided on a reference to full Council. The full Council debate showed in a recorded vote a united front in favour of the spending proposal by all the Lib Dem councillors and against it by all the Conservative and Labour ones.

I hope that the theatre will now produce the revenues which will enable it to fund its own running costs and to meet the other financial obligations which have been taken on. I am sincere in hoping this, but I am also sincere in having some doubts about the prospect of this and fears that the theatre will find itself looking to the CT payers to bail it out of financial difficulties in the future ad infinitum. I just can't help recalling that we were told in 1998 that we could have this theatre without any financial commitment of public funds by the Council and that this proved an all-too-forlorn hope. Supporters point to a newspaper article last year which said that the theatre would bring £11million a year into the Borough. I read the article and looked in vain for convincing evidence in support of this assertion.

We shall see what we shall see.

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