Sutton Theatres Trust has taken over the running of two theatres from Liberal Democrat-led Sutton Council in a move that will keep the theatres open for the community and save the council tax payer £482,000 a year.
Sutton Theatres Trust, a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, is leasing both theatres for a 10-year period after being chosen from two bids on the basis of artistic and community value, financial stability and sustainability, governance and track record.
They will be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of both theatres. As a result, the council will save around £280,000 a year that it currently spends on running costs for the two buildings.
Over the past six months the council has been working with the Trust on aspects including everything from lease and legal matters to marketing and community partnerships.
Faced with having to make £40m of savings from its annual budget due to savage government cuts to local government funding, Sutton council undertook a wide-ranging community consultation as part of Sutton’s Future www.suttonsfuture.org – a campaign to encourage local people to get involved in helping the council to make savings.
It involved a series of meetings and workshops with potential bidders and 1,262 responses to an online and telephone survey.
The council was previously spending £11.21 subsidising every visit to the Charles Cryer Studio Theatre in Carshalton and £6.81 at the Secombe Theatre. In total it cost £157,000 to run Charles Cryer Studio and £325,000 to run Secombe Theatre each year (2014/15 budget).
As a result of the council’s positive action, rather than having to sell the venues, it has been able to draw up the agreement with Sutton Theatres Trust for it to take over the running and all costs for the two theatres, and put on an innovative programme of entertainment.
Cllr Jill Whitehead, Liberal Democrat Chair of the Environment and Neighbourhoods Committee, said: “We are now seeing the end of a thorough and worthwhile process which has resulted in keeping two community assets open but with the positive benefit of saving the council £280,000 a year.
“We are in tough economic times with government cuts meaning we cannot afford many of the services we used to provide. These theatres are a great example of how Sutton Council is acting on genuine consultation with our residents and community groups to try to find a solution together.
“Now we can looking forward to an exciting programme of activity to be unveiled by Sutton Theatres Trust this summer and their contribution to cultural life in Sutton.”
Micha Colombo and Beri Juraic of Sutton Theatres Trust, said: “We're thrilled to be taking over management of the theatres. There has been a lot of hard work since January to reach this point and we're grateful to the council for their collaboration and the support they have given us along the way.
“We'll be announcing our upcoming programme for both The Secombe and The Cryer shortly and we'd encourage people to visit our website, www.suttontheatres.co.uk, to find out more."
The Theatres Trust, the national advisory body for theatres, gave invaluable help both to Sutton Council and prospective bidders during the consultation period.