Mr Woodbridge read out his
statement as follows:
“Thank you Chair and others for allowing us to make a short statement this evening. We are Thurrock Lifestyle Solutions CIC and Thurrock International Celebration of Culture Ltd.
Firstly, we wanted to thank Officers and Members for the opportunity to try and save the Thameside and keep a place for arts and culture at the heart of Thurrock. All Members have expressed their desire to support this and as Cllr Coxshall stated “if the Thameside complex was transferred to the community, it will not only save the Council money but would improve the arts and cultural offer of the borough. He also stated, “the right financial support would have to be put in place to ensure the success of this project in the long term”.
The Thameside Complex has not yet been saved. As you can imagine it has been quite some journey these past 20 weeks and we are aware that our governance is currently what we would describe as credible, but our plan is to make it incredible. We will need your help with this. Our original outline business plan was well received and we believe the figures you state are ‘about right’ in that this building costs the Council £647,000 per year and our plan will enable us to do this cheaper.
We subsequently have met with other Directors at the Council, as well as Officers, museum staff, library staff, and artists. Indeed, there are 150 children working on their own business plan for the building as we speak. We have invested community money and the final business plan is being worked on tirelessly. As part of this we need you to understand that this is a partnership between community, Officers and Members. We want you to have a role in our governance going forwards, but your democratic mandate is at the fore when supporting us in this endeavour. Our consultation has included as diverse a community as possible, everyone is entitled to a voice and trust me, we have been listening. Our business plan is based on three pillars of governance, transformation and finance – Sounding Boards will ensure the continual engagement with all the cultures within our community.
We know that being born with two ears and one mouth is the correct ratio – we’re still listening – talk to us. The saving of this building for the community of Thurrock is crucial. We have been overwhelmed by Thurrock’s outpouring of love and understanding of the role arts and culture will play as the borough expands and support its citizens. The governance, conversations and actions will continue onwards.
We are very excited to have our business plan ready for you at the end of March, but we wanted to be clear that this will not only be transformational, but also it needs to be sustainable. We think that there are clever ways of using your money to lever in even more money. But the very starting point will be a need to ask for some of your transformational funds to help us on this journey together. SO be prepared for our ask – ideally in your June meetings. The decision will then be yours.
We want to go on this cultural journey with you together and are working tirelessly to get it over the line. So once again thank you.”
Councillor Kent declared a non-pecuniary interest as he worked for Thurrock Lifestyle Solutions.
The Director of Strategy, Engagement and Growth introduced the report and thanked Mr Woodbridge for his statement. She stated that there were currently positive ongoing discussions with community groups and officers were looking forward to receiving the Full Business Case by the end of March. She stated that the team were talking to services and business partners, but assured Members that there would be no immediate, short-term changes to the Thameside Complex, and Members would receive regular updates on the situation.
Councillor Kent highlighted point 3.5 of the report and sought assurances that the Thameside Theatre would not close in August 2022. He felt that uncertainty surrounding the future of the site could cause difficulties for groups trying to book the venue and wanted to ensure this would not be the case. Councillor Kent also urged Cabinet to ensure that funding was available to the community group if the Thameside was transferred to them, so they would be able to improve the arts and culture offer within the borough. He felt pleased to see that Cabinet and officers were working with community groups on the asset transfer and hoped that the proposal would be submitted as planned.
Councillor Collins asked if the Full Business Case could be shared with Members, and queried how long until the Thameside became self-funding if transferred. Mr Woodbridge replied that the business case could be shared if Members wished, and that they planned to be self-funding within five years. Councillor Collins asked if the building was life limited. The Director of Strategy, Engagement and Growth replied that the building required ongoing maintenance, and the projected capital costs had been shared with Mr Woodbridge for consideration in developing the Full Business Case. Mr Woodbridge added that they had compiled a red list of maintenance issues that required action, which equated to approximately £200,000. He explained that as the building had been designed as a library, and therefore needed to be structurally sound to hold a vast number of books, the structure of the building was solid.
RESOLVED: That the Committee:
1. Commented on the report and the recommendations to be considered by Cabinet on 9 March 2022:
a. That Cabinet note the main points from the discussions with the community and through the ongoing wider Roundtable meetings.
b. That Cabinet support the relevant Portfolio Holders and Officers to continue with further discussions with the community over the future of Thameside building and related services and that a recommendation is made to Cabinet for final decision no later than July 2022.