Friday 16th November 2018,
North Yorks Enquirer

OAT: The ‘Unmentionable’ Quarter-Million

OAT: The ‘Unmentionable’ Quarter-Million

  • an Open Letter to Councillor Mrs Elizabeth COLLING [Lab.], in her capacity as Chair of the Overview & Scrutiny Board of Scarborough Borough Council, seeking clarification in regards to the Council’s public statements concerning the “operating costs” of the Open Air Theatre.

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Councillor Elizabeth COLLING [Lab.] – Chair of the Overview & Scrutiny Board – SBC

IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST

Liz,

I write requesting your attention to the increasingly confused issue of the operating/trading figures for the Open Air Theatre (OAT).

You will, I am sure, have read and digested the Scarborough News article in which your colleague and Group Leader (and your predecessor in the Chair of the Overview & Scrutiny Board), Councillor Steve SIDDONS [Lab.],  is quoted, thus:

“As we have suspected for a long time, the Open Air Theatre costs the residents of this Borough over £100,000 each year to run, with no guarantee those costs won’t increase in the future.

“We are supposed to share in the profits from the shows with the operator, so it comes as some surprise that following one of the best years of operation with acts such as Britney Spears, Lionel Richie and The Script, we still get no share of the profit.

“This is not a partnership of equals and we need to urgently review these arrangements.”

In the same article, the assertion is made that:

“Scarborough Council has revealed its financial results for the 6,500 capacity attraction, which show that the cost to the council of operating the venue for the year will be £107,000, with the council’s finance director warning that it will see no income from a profit sharing deal. The ‘cost of operation’ of the venue, was reduced by £25,000 as income exceeded expectations by £73,000, which reduced costs from £132,000.”

For the most part, this information accords closely with the equivalent report on the Yorkshire Coast Radio (YCR) website.

I invite you to consider the following quote:

“Scarborough Council has revealed its financial results for the 7,900 capacity attraction, Europe’s largest outdoor venue.

It shows that the cost to the council of operating the venue for the year will be £107,000, with the council’s finance director warning that it will see no income from a profit sharing deal.

The ‘cost of operation’ of the venue, was reduced by £25,000 as income exceeded expectations by £73,000, which reduced costs from £132,000.”

Setting aside the conflicting figures regarding the seating capacity of the OAT (both of which are at odds with earlier reports suggesting that the Council had increased the seating capacity to 8,000), and considering that SBC’s Director of Finance and s.151 Officer Nick EDWARDS made a personal contribution to the YCR piece, what remains is the confident assertion that the Council’s financial burden in respect of “operational costs” had been successfully limited to a laudably frugal £107,000 for the year.

Setting aside, too, the deconstruction of the Council’s ‘spin’ published by North Yorks Enquirer regular contributor Ali WILKINS, I now come to the kernel of my concerns:

An examination of the Council’s Open Data web-page reveals that Scarborough Borough Council’s total spend (invoices of over £500 only) for the time-period 16th August to 1st October 2018 was a massive £240,942.53. You will find attached the relevant extract.

Tedious though it is to subtract the Council’s claimed £107,000 from this total spend of £240,942.53, I have performed that calculation and can tell you that the Council, by its own admission, has apparently spent £133,942.53 more than claimed in the two articles cited above.

Can this be correct?

Councillor SIDDONS, remember, has stated:

“…the Open Air Theatre costs the residents of this Borough over £100,000 each year to run.”

Yet it would appear that the true figure exceeds the claimed £107,000 by over a hundred thousand pounds and, in fact, approaches a quarter of a million pounds in all.

I am sure you will agree that an exhaustive explanation is due.

May I respectfully request you to raise this as an urgent Item on the Agenda of the next available Meeting of your Overview & Scrutiny Board? Thank you.

I look forward to your acknowledgement and response.

Yours, with very kind regards,

Nigel


Extract from SBC Open Data [Payments re Open Air Theatre – 160818-011018]:

Download the PDF file SBC_Open_Data_160818-011018.

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