Fairfield Halls 'Call in'
21/04/2017 20:47:00......Posted by Helen Pollard
Why I 'called in' the decision to appoint a new operator for Fairfield Halls.
The role of Scrutiny, according to Sean Fitzsimons (Chair of Scrutiny) is 'to hold public sector executives to account for the public money they have been given to spend within Croydon borough boundaries'. Public executives in this context include members of the Cabinet, and the Leader of the Council.
The Leader of the Council is about to award a contract worth £180m to an organisation about which we know nothing. This makes the Leader's decision an obvious and very reasonable subject for scrutiny. It is right that the Leader of the Council should be held to account when it comes to the future of Croydon's flagship arts complex.
It is well known that running an entertainment venue like Fairfield Halls is a mammoth undertaking and one that is very hard to do without subsidy. Croydon residents need to be confident the operator that is about to be appointed can deliver what is required. They need to know how it is possible for an operator not only to break even, but to have enough surplus to pay for capital works on in the building and provide revenue for the Council within 5 years. This will be a huge achievement. If they can deliver. But what if they don't deliver?
If the operator fails to deliver, what then? Is there another operator who can be called upon to take on the running of the venue? Or will the Council have to step in and run the venue itself? Or provide a subsidy?
The report says that one operator pulled out of discussions after they had started. Why was this? Did they think it would not be possible to deliver what the Council wanted?
There is still a lack of clarity about what access there will be for community groups and schools to use the venue.
The current Labour Council mas made big claims to be 'open and transparent' and yet, it is prepared to make a decision of this magnitude without reference to the Cabinet, the Council or the public. It begs the question 'What have they got to hide?'
I hope the scrutiny meeting next Wednesday reveals more information that, for some reason, the Labour Council has been trying to hide. Information that should be in the public domain. Like many people in the borough, I want Fairfield Halls to succeed and provide a focal point for entertainment for many years to come. At the moment I can't be sure that is what we will get.