Worthing theatres face finance crisis, admits council

Connaught Theatre The Connaught is one of the three theatres run by Worthing council

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Three council-run theatres in Worthing are facing a financial crisis following an overspend of half a million pounds a year, the BBC has learned.

Worthing council provides for an annual subsidy of £565,000 for the Pavilion and Connaught theatres and the Assembly Hall.

But the operating costs have been £484,000 above the subsidy for the past two years.

Action has now been taken to tackle the overspend, the council said.

The local authority said the theatres cost taxpayers more than £1.2m a year to keep open.

'Heck of a whack'

Worthing Borough Council asked for bids from external bodies to take over the running of the theatres three years ago in an effort to cut £4.5m from its overall budget.

But the council said none of the bids offered sufficient savings.

Leader of the Conservative-run council Paul Yallop said: "The council in these austere times cannot afford to overspend its budgets by such a significant amount.

"It's not acceptable to me as a taxpayer and I don't think it's acceptable to anyone else as a taxpayer."

Keith Sunderland, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the borough council, said the current situation was unsustainable.

"It is a significant concern to the council that basically at the moment, the theatres are costing £4,600 a day to run and that is a heck of a whack," he said.

"It's a large proportion [of the budget]. It can't be done at any cost and at the moment, the costs seem to be running away."

In a further statement, Worthing council said there was nothing in the business plan for Worthing Theatres to indicate one of the venues may close.

"We expect to meet our budget in 2015 without closing any venues," the statement said.

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