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Theatres face axe over cost
A TRIO of theatres face a final curtain call because a cash-strapped council cannot afford to run them all.
The Pavilion, Connaught and Assembly Hall venues in Worthing could close after it was revealed they cost taxpayers nearly £5,000 a day to run last year.
Council chiefs asked for external bids to take over the running of the theatres three years ago in an effort to save £4.5 million.
But none of the proposals offered enough savings and the council continued to run the venues itself at a cost of nearly £1.8 million last year - £484,000 over budget.
Council leader Paul Yallop said closing one of the theatres would be a “last resort” but admitted there would be some “forensic accounting going on”.
He said: “It’s been a bit of a shock to us all that this appeared right at the end of the financial year.
“Prior to that the performance reports suggested we’d be alright for the budget.
“Attendance figures have gone up recently which will translate to better bottom line performance.
“We’ll be reviewing it in the coming months and need to see a vast improvement.
“They’ve had more sell-out shows in the last six months than in the past ten to 15 years, so attendances are getting better.
“There will be some forensic accounting going on.
“Closing one of them will be a last resort.”
Mr Yallop said the possibility of having community-groups run the theatres would be considered ahead of any closures but he was “keen to turn things around”.
Asked whether the threat of theatre closure was a sign Worthing was on the decline, Mr Yallop said: “Most people would accept that Worthing is coming on strongly at the moment.
“In Portland Road, for example, just about all the empty units are being taken up at the moment with new restaurants, sports bars and so on.
“There are very positive signs and I’m hopeful the theatres will be part of that story.
“A strong cultural offering is what we need in the town and it will be a sad day if one of the theatres has to close.”