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Leaders asked to agree 27-point plan for Spalding's South Holland Centre The 27 recommendations for the South Holland Centre

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Senior councillors have been told to make their mind up about the South Holland Centre - and are urged to now back a plan for its future.

A 27-point list of recommendations on how to improve the arts venue was agreed by members of the joint performance monitoring and policy development panels after a debate on Wednesday night.

The suggestions (see below) came from a task group of councillors that looked into how to improve the fortunes of the venue.

Tracey Carter
Tracey Carter

Coun Tracey Carter said she was worried that the council was sending a ‘mixed message’ over the centre - with calls for improvements coming after cuts to the staffing costs last year.

She said: “We are wanting it to be an excellent service and to be everything but we have removed an awful lot of staff as well.”

Coun Carter - who said the marketing of the centre is ‘terrible’ - said she felt a ‘pang of emotion’ reading comments last week from Act II Director Karl Gernert in which he pleaded with members not to think solely of profit and treat the centre like other assets such as parks.

Joint committee chairman Bryan Alcock said the leaders of the council need to decide to what extent they are willing to use public money for the centre - with figures showing the council met a funding shortfall of almost £250,000 for the venue in 2019/20.

BRYAN ALCOCK. (54591437)
BRYAN ALCOCK. (54591437)

He said: “I don’t think the authority is saying it wants to get rid of it and have it as a profitable centre but it is saying it wants that minimised.

“At the moment the task group would say that the best endeavours are not being met.”

Coun Jack McLean asked if a ‘viable option’ was to have the centre run by a business but Coun Alcock replied: “That’s certainly not our recommendation at this present moment simply because the authority had considered the future of the centre and had made radical changes before the task group.

“They had already made a decision at that point that they were going to try to run the centre similarly to previous with less overheads.

“If the executive decides that they want that option examined it’s another different piece of work.”

Coun Michael Booth said the review should have been done before and wants the councillors to regularly check up on progress with the centre, adding: “It certainly can’t carry on losing money how it has done.”

South Holland Centre, Spalding (49289922)
South Holland Centre, Spalding (49289922)

Coun Alcock said the centre should be run more akin to a business - and that the leaders need to give the centre a ‘sharper focus’. He also added: “The service it provides - and the variety it provides - all has a bearing on the economic wellbeing of the district, which is an important aspect.”

Coun Simon Walsh said the centre was ‘underutilised’, ineffectively run and there was a lack of vision. He added: “There’s clearly a lack of governance, leadership and monitoring.”

Coun Angela Newton said recent cuts were ‘too close to the bone’ - but that she was impressed by new manager Joanne Mackel.

Assistant director Phil Perry said she had a background in large scale theatres in London - and took over from consultant Jason Lunn in December.

Coun Alcock said: “She’s cranking up from a standing start. The task group don’t underestimate the task.”

Several councillors said they do not expect the venue to make a profit.

One of those was Coun Jack Tyrrell who said: “I do think we will still spend money on it on a regular basis to keep this maintained. It was shoddily built to be fair and we are trying to patch up a bad building.”

One of the recommendations is to review ticket prices - and Coun Carter urged for these not to go up.

Coun Alcock said: “Everybody would aspire to that. If you just look at electricity and gas prices and where they have gone I think it’s going to make it even more difficult to avoid some increases in some areas.”

Coun Carter replied: “Let’s get fully on our game before we look to do anything with those prices.”

Coun Paul Redgate called for the public to rally around the venue. He said: “We can put great films on and we can put great shows on but we need people to come, be entertained and leave happy.

“If residents don’t come and use it we are going to be back here in a couple of years time saying what do we do next?”

The cabinet will now need to debate what to do with the 27 recommendations - with their next meeting provisionally set for June 7.

Coun Andrew Woolf said: “There’s a hell of a lot for cabinet to consider and we will see where we end up with that.”

South Holland Centre, Spalding (49289911)
South Holland Centre, Spalding (49289911)

Councillors agreed to ask the cabinet to approve all 27 of their recommendations to improve the South Holland Centre.

Those were:

  • Create a three-year business plan by the end of October
  • Establish a programme of work to deliver that plan
  • Review ticket prices
  • Review hire costs
  • Increase ‘added sales’ through the likes of food and drink
  • Promote parking options - potentially offering refund for centre visitors
  • Better use of the foyer - with opening times and contact numbers visible
  • Broaden the use - including tourist information and district wide functions
  • Promote the venue for wedding ceremonies and receptions
  • Look into other uses for the function room
  • Work with organisations to put on events that ‘draw maximum attendance’ - such as those with local children in
  • Review all promotion, advertising and marketing - with a well-managed database and better use of social media
  • Create a promotional/marketing campaign to raise the ‘public’s perception, image and profile’
  • Put marketing material in the function room
  • Improve its ‘noticeability’ by mking it an informational and promotional centre for activities across the district
  • Get films near release date - and fill gaps with previous blockbusters
  • Use ‘external expertise’ to get better deals on films and live performances with bigger appeal
  • Seek sponsorship from businesses - and work around high demand times for films/shows
  • Create a pool of volunteers to give extra support
  • Set up robust governance and scrutiny
  • Create a more user friendly financial reporting system
  • Use data to inform a ‘commercial approach’
  • Review the management structure - considering a board with two councillors and one outsider
  • Agree a 12-18 month maintenance plan
  • Review and rationalise office space
  • Bring basement rooms back into use
  • Produce an action plan within two weeks to ensure the above work is done

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