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Theatre cash plea rejected

A PLEA by the theatre operator in Bognor Regis for cash was dismissed by town councillors as a sob story.


The Arun Arts charity, which runs the Alexandra Theatre, had written to the town council seeking a reversal of its decision to refuse to give it a grant.


But councillors – who have £4,253 left in their annual grant aid budget – rejected the request by 3-2 votes, with one abstention, at a meeting on Monday.


Cllr Jan Cosgrove (L, Orchard) said he was still unhappy with the reaction of Arun Arts to an earlier donation of £10,000 annually for three years.


“This is an infernal cheek. I am sure it’s a big sob story. We gave them three years’ money. We got no adequate response from them. They denied us proper access,” he said.


“I would like to engage with these people about the future of their project in the town’s regeneration.


“They have a public duty to be more open with the community which have stepped in on one or two occasions to save them.


“Until we know what is going on, given the chequered history of this set up, my own view is that we should not support this.”


Approving the request would also open the floodgates to any other unsuccessful applicant to seek a review, he said.


Cllr Jeanette Warr (LD, Hotham) described the request as bellyaching.


“We have never been able to get in with Arun Arts,” she said. “They never invite us to meeting. It’s not as open a situation as it should be when we give people grants. I definitely do not want to give them any more money.”


But Cllr Adam Cunard (I, Pevensey), the policy and resources committee’s chairman, said the council should leave its past relations with Arun Arts behind.


Cllr Cunard, who is a member of Arun Arts, said: “Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation, the public benefit from the theatre being open and we benefit from the theatre being open as a community facility.


“The public aren’t interested in the story between the town council and Arun Arts. All they will ask is why the town council is not supporting the town’s theatre. They will see us as petulant in not giving the money.”


He was backed by Cllr Damien Enticott (I, Hatherleigh). He said: “We should consider what the public will make of this decision.”


In her letter to the town council, Arun Arts’s chairman Hazel Latus said its failure to award funds was a ‘bitter pill to swallow’.


“We feel our contribution to the town is invaluable, offering wellbeing including education, theatre, variety and music. Plus bringing economic benefits to the town itself and creating a welcoming and fun environment for all ages,” she said.


“Part of our commitment to the local residents is to subsidise many of their clubs and charities in the hire of our very professional facilities – including studio spaces and auditorium – at a very low rental. This alone costs our charity in excess of £98,000 a year.”

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