On Tuesday evening (25.07.06) Kingston Council’s Executive formally approved the funding for the fit-out of Rose of Kingston theatre. This means that the Council will now invest the additional £3.4m needed to complete the fit-out of the theatre and that work will be able to start in the very near future, with a target opening of Autumn 2007.
The financial arrangements had already been approved by the Executive last month, but the Scrutiny Panel – which examines decisions made by the Executive and monitors the performance of the Council – had ‘called in’ in these arrangements for review.
The Scrutiny Panel met on 5 July to examine the decisions that had been made. This led to a number of issues being raised and the Panel concluded that, in its opinion, the Executive had not fulfilled its fiduciary duty (taking into account the interests of the Council Tax payers when deciding to incur any expenditure) and that Council Tax payers should be formally consulted on the funding of the fit-out of Rose of Kingston.
Whilst noting the views of the Scrutiny Panel, Members of the Executive felt that the interests of the Council Tax payers had been taken into account and balanced against the community benefits that a working theatre would bring to the borough.
The capital finance arrangements had been approved by Full Council on 18 July and a Public Forum held at the Theatre the following day provided an opportunity for those present to express opposing points of view and for specific concerns to be addressed.
The maximum cost of the project as a whole will be £400,000 (equivalent to £6.00 per Council Tax payer). Estimates suggest that a working theatre in the town could generate an additional £11 million per annum income to the borough. The theatre will also play an important role in redressing the balance of the night-time economy in Kingston Town Centre by widening the mix of people brought into the town in the evenings.
On Tuesday evening, Executive decided that the arrangements agreed last month should stand, allowing work on the theatre to start as soon as possible. This means that:
The structural shell of the theatre was built as part of the Charter Quay development in 2002, through a Planning Gain Agreement, but has so far remained unfinished. It will now take approximately one year to complete the interior fit out – including installation of the theatre equipment by specialist contractors – prior to opening.
Kingston Council has negotiated a three-year loan with a preferential rate from HSBC bank and has already attracted a substantial investment from a local business man. The Council will now work alongside Kingston Theatre Trust and the Friends of Kingston Theatre to attract both individual and business investors to support the project and recoup its investment.