We seek to clarify the claim made in the Surrey Comet last week that, in 2009 “The bailout of the Rose Theatre added an extra £55 a year on the average band D property’s bill.”
Firstly, although the Council decided to fund part of the theatre’s ‘New Deal’ in 2009, we did so without increasing overall spend or Council Tax level.
Through sound financial management, we found £600,000 within existing budgets to buy services off the Theatre for specific local education and cultural purposes, such as providing free tickets for school children and low income families, hosting youth drama and community events.
In addition, as a report to the Executive in December 2008 explained quite clearly – we did not face a choice between paying our contribution to the New Deal contract (with the numerous benefits outlined below) or nothing. If Kingston Council and University had refused to help keep the Theatre Trust running, the considerable one-off and ongoing costs of maintaining the empty building would have fallen on local Council tax payers.
Thirdly, the arithmetic of last week’s claim is plain wrong. If the administration had reduced the Council’s budget by £600,000, instead of supporting the New Deal, we would have reduced the band D council tax in 2009 by about £9.40 or 2½p a day.
We seek to dispel the suggestion that the New Deal funding in the Council’s budget is an expensive and frivolous cost. For little more than 2p a day, an open and productive community theatre provides benefits to residents of all ages and backgrounds well beyond the tangible services guaranteed under the New Deal.
The maintenance of a nationally renowned, open theatre in the heart of Kingston has positively transformed the experience of visiting the town centre after dark for all. We have smashed Kingston’s after-dark reputation of being an exclusive haunt for young adults seeking alcohol fuelled nightlife and clubbing: since the opening of the Rose, both the incidence and public fear of crime in the area has fallen considerably.
Audience members also tend to spend in the town’s shops and restaurants, so local businesses have enjoyed a boosted income in the context of an extremely challenging financial year. The Government recognised the success of the Rose Theatre the Council’s wider strategies such as town centre management, crime reduction, and youth engagement. This year we were awarded a purple and green flag for excellence in these areas.
Despite local Conservative opposition, the Rose Theatre has brought immeasurable benefits to Kingston. We hope local people share the view that supporting the Rose Theatre has been a good deal for residents: it continues to touch the lives of young and old alike allowing the rich cultural experience that Kingston deserves, as well as bringing in millions of pounds of benefit to the borough.