Theatre needs a fairer deal claims Thurrock councillor

Thameside Theatre is being hamstrung by council rules which are preventing it becoming financially viable, a Thurrock councillor has claimed.

The theatre, which was once under threat of closure, has remained open despite the council’s financial pressures and at a council meeting last month it was revealed it’s disposal has been “taken off the table” in this year’s budget.

However, quarter two forecast revenue and capital figures show a shortfall of £239,000 for the theatre.

A report to Thurrock’s corporate overview and scrutiny committee, which met on Thursday, says this is because the theatre is to remain open all year rather just part of the year as previously expected.

At the meeting, Lynn Worrall, Labour councillor for Grays Thurrock said the theatre wasn’t getting a fair deal.

She said: “We need to give the theatre the best fighting chance and what this is showing is an overspend.

“Boris allowed the theatres to open in May 2021. We didn’t open our theatre until September and now we are only allowing it to make bookings three months in advance when acts that we want to book for it need a year to 18 months.”

Cllr Worrall added increases in charges for people using the theatre were having a negative effect on the venue.

She said: “We need to be two feet in the camp or two feet out of the camp with the Thameside Theatre because we are just about to put service charges up. We put them up earlier in the year and we are about to do it again.

“ I do feel it is a death by a thousand cuts for Thameside because if its showing as an overspend we just need to give them the chance to operate fairly and on a level playing field.

“It’s not because people don’t want to go to the theatre, its because of the restrictions around the theatre and I don’t want to get to any budget setting where people say the theatre doesn’t wash it face because we’ve got a noose round the neck of the theatre.”

A report to councillors said the theatre had been set for a £440,000 overspend but it adds: “A review of utility costs across the property portfolio mitigates part of this pressure back down to £0.239m.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter