Arts Centre gobbles up our cash

December 02, 2011 5:00 PM

Theatres and arts centres are costly things for taxpayers. Earlier this year I wrote about 'The Waterfront' in Aylesbury. Taxpayers give this theatre a £500K subsidy, yet despite this, when the council wanted to hire the theatre on election night, we had to stump up another £20K for the privilege.

It's not a pretty picture further north in West Bromwich. A controversial arts centre, ironically called The Public, eats up £2.29 million in taxpayer subsidies, and only manages to generate a profit of £58,801.

Looking at the figures, it appears very few people use this venue. One of the excuses for such a poor financial performance is ticket sales are down, but they are down from £54,850 to £34,267. In what is described as a good year, tickets sales only generated a little over £1000 a week.

Conferences generated an income of £174,893 from 240 events. In a £72 million arts centre, there must be plenty of space, so an average income of £728 per event must mean the conferences were very small.

No doubt I will be described as a Philistine for daring to criticise the arts, although anyone who knows me will tell you I am certainly not. As a musician I fully appreciate the role the arts play in our country. I have been involved with small theatre groups in the past, and they had to balance the books. If they made huge losses, they went out of business.

What appears to be happening here is no-one is taking responsibility. Taxpayers' cash keeps rolling in - even during tough economic times - and for as long as this continues, the incentive to make this venue pay is not there.

This is a classic example of a grandiose plan gone wrong. I very much doubt there was ever a sound business case put forward for the building of this arts centre. It will have been dreamed up as something to put West Bromwich on the map. As so often happens with these examples, taxpayers are left footing an enormous bill.

I would rather have fewer venues that really succeed, are popular, and are a credit to the their town or city, than countless white elephants gobbling up our money, especially when there are many very worthwhile projects for the money to be spent on.Theatres and arts centres are costly things for taxpayers. Earlier this year I wrote about 'The Waterfront' in Aylesbury. Taxpayers give this theatre a £500K subsidy, yet despite this, when the council wanted to hire the theatre on election night, we had to stump up another £20K for the privilege.

It's not a pretty picture further north in West Bromwich. A controversial arts centre, ironically called The Public, eats up £2.29 million in taxpayer subsidies, and only manages to generate a profit of £58,801.

Looking at the figures, it appears very few people use this venue. One of the excuses for such a poor financial performance is ticket sales are down, but they are down from £54,850 to £34,267. In what is described as a good year, tickets sales only generated a little over £1000 a week.

Conferences generated an income of £174,893 from 240 events. In a £72 million arts centre, there must be plenty of space, so an average income of £728 per event must mean the conferences were very small.

No doubt I will be described as a Philistine for daring to criticise the arts, although anyone who knows me will tell you I am certainly not. As a musician I fully appreciate the role the arts play in our country. I have been involved with small theatre groups in the past, and they had to balance the books. If they made huge losses, they went out of business.

What appears to be happening here is no-one is taking responsibility. Taxpayers' cash keeps rolling in - even during tough economic times - and for as long as this continues, the incentive to make this venue pay is not there.

This is a classic example of a grandiose plan gone wrong. I very much doubt there was ever a sound business case put forward for the building of this arts centre. It will have been dreamed up as something to put West Bromwich on the map. As so often happens with these examples, taxpayers are left footing an enormous bill.

I would rather have fewer venues that really succeed, are popular, and are a credit to the their town or city, than countless white elephants gobbling up our money, especially when there are many very worthwhile projects for the money to be spent on.

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