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UPDATED: Weymouth and Portland Borough Council facing budget D-Day
COUNCILLORS will discuss five options for the future of Weymouth Pavilion.
A report to the borough council's management committee reveals the options for the theatre ranging from leasing the building to closing it entirely by the end of May and demolishing it and turning the area into a car park.
The Management Committee will meet on February 5 to discuss the 2013/14 budget and make recommendations to the full council meeting on February 21.
Councillors are expected to recommend that the Pavilion is closed at the end of May and choose one of the following options for its future:
1. That it is closed and demolished prior to the longer-term redevelopment of the Peninsula site
2.That the council closes the Pavilion and a tender process starts to lease the building with criteria supporting community use.
3.The council closes the Pavilion and starts a tender process to lease the building to secure 'best market value,'
4.The council closes the Pavilion and markets it for freehold sale.
5.A further option for the borough council to continue running the Pavilion and the budget is found from elsewhere to meet operational needs, repairs and maintenance, is not the 'preferred option.'
The council undertook consultation to 'encourage either the community or private sector to submit proposals for purchase or lease' of the Pavilion.
A number of submissions were made including from Phil Say of the Save the Pavilion group, which aims to take over the running of the Pavilion and run it as a Community Interest Company, and a submission from the White Knight Group.
In their submission the group endorses the community proposals and urges the council to 'mothball' rather than demolish the Pavilion if submissions from interested parties did not satisfy the terms of the consultation.
The White Knight Group letter said they feared that the four weeks given, may prove 'too difficult a deadline' to convince the council that plans are credible and sustainable over a ten-year period, in order to 'justify the council keeping the theatre open until it can be transferred to new ownership.'
The group added that if it was mothballed they would propose taking over the entire peninsula site, including the ferry berth, and would build the facility that Condor requires.
They would then work with local groups to create a 'long-term future' for the Pavilion.
A saving of £700,000 for 2013/14 is projected from the closure of the Pavilion.
But following the Pavilion closure the council is proposing to grant a one-off sum of £100,000 to support arts and culture within the borough.
In the options to go before the Management Committee will be the proposals to dispose of the North Quay and Guildhall and to reduce spending on CCTV by £100,000.
Council Tax is going to be recommended to increase - a Band B property could see a two per cent increase of £4.16.
There are also proposals to reduce the number of councillors from the current number of 36.
The report to be presented to the Management Committee highlights that the partnership with West Dorset District Council has brought £2.1million in on-going savings but that as 'the significant level of cuts to council funding will continue for the foreseeable future' that the borough council 'no longer has the resources to be able to provide the same number of services and in the same ways as it has done traditionally.'
The report adds that the 'tough choices' the borough council has to make 'will prove unpopular' but that failure to do so will 'threaten the council's continued existence.'
The end of the Tourist information Center?
THE Management Committee is considering closing then selling or demolishing the Pavilion, which includes the Tourist Information Centre, and ways of 'reducing the costs of tourism services.'
The current budget, which also includes the Portland TIC is £127,000.
Councillors are looking to save £100,000 by 'ending the TIC service' and 'supporting alternatives.'
Under proposed plans to make savings the Weymouth TIC could close by the end of May and the Portland TIC would close in September 2013.
A plan for alternatives would then be created for the Management Committee by April.
This could include potential partnerships with the private sector or other organisations and use of online facilities.
Some basic services for Weymouth could be operated from North Quay.
TIC campaigner Barbara Howe raised more than 5,500 signatures to try and keep the TIC in its old spot on the sea front.
She said that losing the TIC would be a 'disaster.'
She added that many on the older generation did not have access to the internet.
Mrs Howe said: “I think it's a disaster personally. I think the least they could o is install something in the library, which is central.”
She added that a central location would make it easier for people to get to.
Festivals and events in the borough to be reviewed Also potentially being hit by cuts could be festivals and events in the borough with the £196,748 budget likely to be reviewed.
The council said it wants to focus on events that deliver 'clear economic benefits.'
AUTHORITY TO FACE TOUGH CHOICES IN CUTS CRISIS
Authority to face tough choices in cuts crisis DRASTIC money-saving measures have been recommended to keep Weymouth and Portland Borough Council going.
A budget report says the cash-strapped authority faces the largest challenge it has ever had to continue its existence, with the Pavilion, the council offices at North Quay and councillors’ posts all facing the axe.
The report proposes that council tax goes up by just under two per cent, CCTV services be reduced and tourist information centres (TICs) in Weymouth and Portland are scrapped.
Dozens of jobs are likely to be shed with the closure of these services.
The report says the ‘tough choices’ the authority has to make over service cuts and reductions will prove unpopular.
It warns: “A recent report from the Audit Commission predicts that a significant number of councils will become financially unviable.”
Councillors will vote on the recommendations in a crunch management committee meeting on February 5 as the council looks to close a funding gap of £2.2million over the next financial year.
And there will be a further £4.2million gap in funding over the next six years assuming the gap is closed every year on a permanent basis.
If this gap was funded by council tax alone – householders’ rates would have to increase by more than 42 per cent, the report says.
Over the last three years the council has experienced a reduction in its government grant of nearly £2million a year.
The authority has made savings of £2.1million so far by joining forces with West Dorset District Council in the Westwey Partnership and making 70 redundancies, the report says.
An all-party Budget Working Group was set up last year to help the council enter a new age of austerity and was tasked to identify options that would deliver annual savings of £900,000.
The recommendations from management committee will go to a meeting of the full council for a final decision on February 21.
MIKE GOODMAN SAYS NO TO MERGER COUNCIL
leader Mike Goodman said the borough council cannot merge any further with West Dorset District Council.
He said: “The potential saving from further merger is small. There is no more to be merged.”
Coun Goodman added that people had told the council at a previous consultation that they did not want to be part of a unity authority as residents liked 'their differences' and that their councils could make different decisions.
He added that the options like disposing of North Quay needed to be looked at and that there could potentially be space in other council buildings to accommodate staff including the Chickerell offices for back office staff.
But he added that it was still important to keep 'face to face' interaction with a town centre base.
For example Coun Goodman said: “We have face to face people dealing with benefits claims but back office work has been done for many years in Dorchester.”
Coun Goodman said looking at closing both Portland and Weymouth TICs was a 'difficult' question.
He said: “People get their information in different ways these days.”
Coun Goodman added that footfall to the TICs had been 'dropping' over the years.
He added: “People's shopping and information gathering habits are changing. It's hard to keep up with the technology.”'
COUNCILLORS & COUNCIL OFFICERS MONEY will be saved by reducing the number of borough councillors from the current total of 36, the report says.
It has also been recommended that elections should be held once every four years instead of three times in four years.
Management costs at the authority need to be further cut back, the report says, with a savings target of £500,000 to £600,000 for the top three tiers of management.
THE offices at North Quay, which were built in the early 1970s, will be sold and a proposal is in place for staff to use existing empty office accommodation such as the offices at the Depot in Chickerell Road.
This would save the authority £250,000 a year and further costs because major expenditure is required on the North Quay offices over coming years, a report on the building found.
A town centre presence will be retained in Weymouth, the budget report says.
The move is expected to take around two years and it has been recommended that planning permission is obtained for future use of the harbourside site.
IT is proposed that council tax for the average Band D property in the borough will go up by £5.35 a year in the borough.
Nationally, councils cannot increase council tax by more than two per cent, with a two per cent limit set by the secretary of State.
Portland mum Debbie Lindoe said she was 'peeved' to hear that a council tax rise of just under two per cent has been proposed.
She said: “I'm a bit peeved that they are putting up council tax, especially if the country is supposed to be in an economic downturn.
“We don't seem to get any extra for our money. I know that things have to go up but we don't seem to get anything extra in return.
“Maybe they could cut some of the management pay.”
THE council-owned Grade II listed building in St Edmund Street should be sold and other community uses for it investigated, the report said.
Another venue will have to be found for the council to hold full council meetings in, the report said.
The Budget Report said: “The Guildhall is only used by the council for five evening meetings during the year.
“This does not represent a good use of the asset.”
CCTV THE budget for CCTV in 2013/14 will be reduced by £100,000, it is proposed.
It is recommended that 'less useful cameras' be de-activated and more technical efficiencies made, saving £20,000.
The report suggests seven cameras in Weymouth could be removed, making a saving of £6,500 in transmission costs and £3,000 for maintenance - a total of £9,500.
It is suggested that a reduction of six cameras in both Bridport and Dorchester could achieve savings of £2,500 for maintenance and a further £3,500 for transmission each, making a total of £12,000.
Ceasing to review evidential tapes - not a council responsibility - would save £30,000 and a proposal to reduce the operation and staffing of the CCTV camera from 24 hours a day to 12 hours would save £50,000.
Andy Alcock, chairman of the licensed Weymouth and Portland licensed boatsmen and fishermen association, said the proposed CCTV savings were 'ludicrous.'
He added: “We've had 49 recorded incidents of thefts and damage to vessels between the town bridge and the slipway over an eight year period.
“There will be more crime, without a doubt. I'd like to ask 'which of the cameras around town are less useful?'”