Open Air Theatre posts huge losses

UB40 REUNITED --- UB40 Reunited play at Scarborough Open Air Theatre. The group is UB40 original members Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue, playing with a backing band. // The audience begins queuing early despite the rain. Friday 14th August 2015. HARRY ATKINSON

UB40 REUNITED --- UB40 Reunited play at Scarborough Open Air Theatre. The group is UB40 original members Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue, playing with a backing band. // The audience begins queuing early despite the rain. Friday 14th August 2015. HARRY ATKINSON

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Shocking new figures show that losses at Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre skyrocketed to £350,000 in the last 12 months.

The losses to the borough council come despite it using its full allocation of concerts for the first time this summer.

Twelve concerts were planned with acts including Tom Jones, Boyzone and Jessie J performing.

Although one of the shows was cancelled, a joint-headline gig of Blue and Atomic Kitten, more than 44,000 people attended shows at the 6,000 capacity venue in 2015.

However, figures to be presented to Tuesday’s Scarborough Council’s Cabinet meeting will show huge losses at the theatre.

In 2014 the venue lost £55,000 and this year’s losses are more than double that of 2013’s £127,000.

After taking over the theatre’s running from operator Apollo, the cabinet planned that it would break even this year and move into profit in 2016/17.

Detailed figures show that even after a £26,000 net underspend has been subtracted the Open Air Theatre income is expected to be under its predicted budget by £237,000 making a total cost to the council of more than £350,000.

Labour Group Leader Steve Siddons told council this week that the cabinet was failing in its commitment to a strong financial management culture underpinned on continuous improvement.

He said: “Capital receipt targets have been missed, Capital Development Reserves are overcommitted and rising, Borrowing is over £12 million and rising. Yet we are faced with increasing costs, less income and significant Capital Projects.”

He added: “To add to this we now have details of the Open Air Theatre financial outturn. The Cabinet promised that it had the expertise to manage the theatre, that the venue would break even this year and show a profit against budget in 2017/18. Instead, we have disastrous figures adding to what looks like an increasingly downward spiral.”

It now looks increasingly likely that responsibility for booking acts will be taking out of the hands of council officers and councillors.

The report into the Open Air Theatre’s troubles says that in future the venue will be rented to promoters, as was done this summer with the sell-out Tom Jones concert.

The report states: “This year twelve concerts were booked for the OAT, which is greater than any previous year since re-opening although some of the shows were not as well attended as anticipated. Alongside the concerts ‘Free Summer Shows’ were once again provided during the main school holiday period, these proved to be hugely successful with well in excess of 600 people attending each event.

“It is important to note that over 44,000 people attended one of the shows at the theatre this year many of whom were from outside the Borough and, therefore, the economic benefit to the Borough as a whole is significant.

“In addition this year the venue was hired to an outside promoter for one concert (Tom Jones).

“Following the huge success of this hire officers are working with other promoters in an attempt to bring further hire’s to the venue therefore significantly reducing the financial risk to the Council.”

When the council’s new cabinet was announced in May Cllr David Chance, the cabinet member in charge of leisure, which includes the theatre, was axed in favour of Cllr Andrew Backhouse.