During a recent Policy and Resources Committee meeting, Councillor Jessie Jagger has expressed her deep concerns about the direction of the proposed multi-use arts centre in the historic Scala and Corn Exchange buildings.
The initial enthusiasm surrounding the idea of a 500-seat theatre, filled with the promise of cultural vibrancy and economic growth has now waned due to budget overruns. The new proposal suggests transforming these historic buildings into a multi-purpose arts space, a concept that appears appealing but raises numerous questions.
Cllr Jagger compared this effort to the Artrix in Bromsgrove, an impressive arts centre which has struggled to keep its doors open over the last few years, casting shadows of doubt on the viability of the proposed scheme.
Cllr Jagger questioned why a project with a multi-million-pound budget has failed to attract a viable commercial partner and expressed reservations about supporting a project without clarity about its long-term financial viability.
Jagger said: “We still don’t know exactly what this new proposal will look like, how much it will cost or whether it will create ongoing costs for the council once completed. A substantial investment like this should generate income for the city and should not create new financial commitments for the taxpayer. I will not be comfortable supporting the project until I see it has a credible business plan. I don’t want the city to spend millions renovating two buildings only for them to struggle to pay their bills.”
However, in a positive development, after her speech Cllr Jagger has had some very positive conversations with members of all political parties. She said, “ The situation is not ideal, but it’s clear that everyone wants a venue that is accessible and financially sustainable, the question is how do we accomplish this in six months.”
“I promised the people of Claines that when I came across any project that seemed to be spiralling in costs, I would be as helpful or as annoying as I needed to be to ensure their money was well spent. I am doing all that I can to keep that promise.”