Worthing theatres and museum could be run by new in-house trust

The management of Worthing Theatres could be taken over by a new trust run the by the council’s in-house cultural services team.

The Connaught Theatre in Worthing
The Connaught Theatre in Worthing

A report to Worthing Borough Council’s joint strategic committee has recommended delegating the running and management of four venues – Worthing Museum and Art Gallery, Connaught, Pavilion Theatre and Assembly Hall – to the new trust.

Councillor Daniel Humphreys, Leader of Worthing Borough Council, said: “The contribution of the theatres and museum to our town in recent years has been immeasurable, helping put Worthing on the map as an innovative and vibrant place to live.”

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He added that moving to a trust model would bring in extra funding and allow further investment in staff, historic buildings and programming.

An open procurement to find a service provider began in September last year.

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The tender documents revealed that the council’s anticipated budget for the services was £37.8m over the life of the 25 year contract.

The tender opportunity attracted ‘significant interest’ with a number of organisations, according to the report, however only one bidder – the council’s in house team – formally submitted an application.

The budget for the theatres and museum for 2019/20 is £1.9m, the report stated.

Councillor Stephen Waight said he found it hard to understand that the budget for cultural services was ‘effectively ring fenced’ despite the ‘clear evidence that local government finance would be tight for years to come’.

He noted that £85,000 had been spent so far on a tendering process that had led to just one bid.

Councillor Jim Deen said the Labour group had concerns about the procurement process and the problems the council may face financially over the next five years of the contract.

He added that the process did not address the problem of Worthing’s ‘ageing’ and ‘unsuitable’ facilities, adding: “The chances of the trust flourishing in that environment are problematic.”

Councillors will debate the issue at a Joint Strategic Committee meeting on Tuesday (March 5).