The recent letter from Stan Jonas regarding the costs of the Picturedrome Cinema raises a number of points which need accurate answers.
First, he claims the decision to purchase the Bognor Pier Company Limited and the associated refurbishment costs were taken in secret. Not so.
All meetings as far as possible discussing this were and are held in open session, and only when there were matters of commercial confidentiality were meetings held in ‘confidential businesses’.
Second, the figure of £445,000 to purchase the building for the town is well-known, as is the fact this was to be facilitated through a loan from the Public Works Loan Board, financed through the town council’s precept. It was always known there would be a four-year refurbishment programme which will cost £492,355 (not £553,000 as stated in Mr Jonas’ letter ) which is and will be financed through the town council’s building fund (£200,000), plus the rolling capital fund with annual contributions from the council and Bognor Pier Company Limited totalling £282,404 until 2016.
There is a small shortfall of £9,931 which will be financed from preliminaries and/or BPCL surpluses and which have been built into the financial modelling for the project.
Third, in respect of the proposal to add two more screens to the cinema following the well-attended town electors’ meeting in March which overwhelmingly endorsed this strategy, the town council have agreed in principle that detailed work be undertaken with a view to adding an additional two screens plus a new community room.
In any event, a small third Octagon Room screen will be in operation by this summer, financed by the cinema operator. Having taken professional architectural and specialised marketing advice (sorry, Stan, you are wrong to say we have not done this) the projected cost of this expansion scheme will be £815,620 which equates to an annual cost of £69,771.
This will be mainly financed from a further loan from the Public Works Loan Board over a 20-year period which in turn will be paid for by an increase in annual rent from the cinema operator plus capital contributions from BPCL.
In addition, it is likely the council will set up a community fund to seek contributions from local individuals and businesses who might wish to contribute, plus the council will be actively looking to other sources of funding, especially in relation to the proposed new community facility as part of the expanded cinema.
Suffice to say, the detailed financial modelling shows an expanded Picturedrome will NOT impact on local chargepayer.
Fourth, Mr Jonas raises the issue of rent paid by the current cinema operators. When the previous council were looking for someone to lease the cinema, there was a very stringent tendering process with several potential operators in the frame. No favouritism was shown and the agreed rental of the successful candidate was based on a realistic market rent. Since then, the Electric Theatre Company have invested many tens of thousands of their own money into new seating, re-decoration and new digital projection equipment whilst offering a cheap ticket pricing policy which seems to be very popular with locals and visitors alike.
Fifth, the town council and its chargepayers are already getting a very sound financial return bearing in mind what I have outlined earlier, plus even with the restrictions of a listed building as pointed out by Mr Jonas, the value of the Picturedrome building is now far higher than the original purchase price – good business sense if you ask me!
Mr Jonas asserts that by committing all these resources to the Picturedrome and its possible expansion, the town council is unable to do other things. Can I point out while the council is only paying a ‘miserly’ £9,000 towards the London Road improvement scheme, it is committing a great deal of Town Force time to this scheme worth many additional thousands.
Further, the council is also financing with Arun and local traders the free parking scheme in the town (£29,000) plus they are likely to provide at least £36,000 towards the cost of the proposed new town centre manager. Please, Mr Jonas, no more insinuation the town council doesn’t pull its weight in trying to improve the town.
Finally, on May 17, there will be a special grand re-opening of the Picturedrome to show and celebrate all the refurbishment and improvements which have been carried out over the past two years. If Mr Jonas would like to contact me, I will very happily arrange for him to be a guest at this event so he can see for himself just how much has been achieved at the cinema which I believe is a shining showcase for real regeneration in action.
Cllr Roger Nash
Policy and resources committee