An open letter to all councillors on Scarborough Borough Council from Patricia David, Co-ordinator of the Save the Futurist Campaign, ahead of a possible final decision regarding the Futurist Theatre..
It seems that we have now reached the final decision to be made by the Council regarding the future of this building, and that this is yours to make. It is true to say that too much not very decisive discussion has gone on for too long and has to be brought to an end. But let us be sure that this is a thoroughly informed decision. The consequences will be there for our lifetimes.
Some of you have already indicated you will not be standing for re-election. So what would you like to be remembered for? What will your last major legacy be for the incoming Council and the local electorate?
Some of you will be standing for re-election. What will your personal manifesto include? Will it reflect the feelings of the Ward which you want to represent? Do you know what these are? Will you consider the 10,800 signatures of citizens who want the Futurist renovated and restored. The Council received 6,600 of them and the Council Leader 4,200.
Some Councillors have changed allegiance, and also there will be many new Councillors arriving. Voters will be questioning their local candidates very closely before making their voting decision.
So I have some factual information for you that we would be pleased if you could consider as part of your personal decision making process.
Back in 2010, the much referred to Public Consultation took place. As a very active participant in this I offered during a presentation an idea as a suggestion – and that is precisely what it was – that the Council offer the theatre to the people to set up a Charitable Trust and run the theatre, as there is all the relevant skills and expertise available in the town.
A few weeks later, in a Scrutiny Meeting, suddenly out of the blue and without any previous discussion or even a conversation, and certainly nothing in writing, we were offered an opportunity to take over the theatre for a year to prove that we could run it effectively. What had started out as “our idea and suggestion” had suddenly become in the Council’s mind “our Proposal” and we should prepare a fully funded and costed Business Plan. After this one year the Council would decide whether or not to proceed further. No funding would be made available.
Apart from the fact that this was a most unbusinesslike method of handling such an important and far reaching offer, this together with other Terms & Conditions were quite obviously unachievable. We sought advice and were told not to touch it. We could not decide whether this was made by the Council out of ignorance of what was involved in such an undertaking, or was it a deliberate attempt to set us up to fail.
After having taken this advice, I wrote a Report to the Council, which is on public record, stating why we would not be taking up the offer. I also wrote a letter to the Council Leader stating why we would not proceed. I have copies of all these documents.
Now over 4 years later, some Councillors and Officers are stating as a fact, on every possible occasion that we were given an opportunity to put in a Business Plan and we have failed to do so. I have made several attempts to correct this error, but to no avail. Now when it comes to voting, I hope you will be able to keep this fact in mind.
A large, but undisclosed quantity of our money is being spent to clear and restabilise the Futurist site so that FlamingoLand Ltd can build a Funfair. In addition a parcel of Council garden land is being thrown in for good measure. In effect this is a blank cheque which the taxpayer is underwriting. Our Business Plan offers a workable alternative which the 10,800 people who signed the petition want for the town. This has not been considered, because the Council’s stated Rules for Bidding precluded the possibility of our presenting it in the way in which they dictated, by 15th August 2014. On this basis, and again, with sound professional advice, we did not feel it a worthwhile activity to present an incomplete Business Plan just to have it rejected out of hand. Our Plan does not require any expenditure whatsoever by the Council, except to be willing to hand over for £1 the theatre and its adjacent land in the same way that York Council and Bradford (and other Council’s elsewhere) have done; we have a fully costed and designed Plan to do the rest. Because most Councillors have not been given a chance to see what this alternative is, the new newspaper Scarborough Comet have been kind enough to publish all of this in serial form during the last 4 weeks, the last entry being available Tuesday 24th February.
Since 2010 the whole entertainment climate has changed, opportunities for fundraising have changed, and we have kept up with the theatre and entertainment industry every step of the way, because most of our team and many of our supporters are actively engaged in that industry and earn their living from it. Therefore, from a position of strength, we are now able to negotiate knowledgeably and effectively and present the Council with a full Business Plan. So far we have been force-fitted into the Council rigid structure which does not allow this which would be de rigeur in the commercial world; therefore this does not give the Councillors important information which they need in order to make an informed and far-reaching decision which will change the town forever, and which the people (i.e. voters and taxpayers) will be forced to live with whether they like it or not. This will undoubtedly resonate at the Ballot Box.
We are informed that discussions are well under way with FlamingoLand, and this is being used as a legal reason as to why no further bids can be accepted. However, given the fact that this has not yet been debated and voted for in full Council, it seems apparent that these discussions can of necessity only be at a very preliminary level until a decision has been legally made and ratified to proceed down this particular route.
I hope this serves to inform your Council debating and decision making process.
Many thanks for reading this, and may God Bless your serious and weighty deliberations.
Save the Futurist Campaign