Published: November 11, 2011
Burnham's Princess Theatre 'made loss of £27k in last six months'

Burnham-On-Sea's Princess Theatre has made a loss of £27,439 during the six months since the Town Council took on its ownership earlier this year, it has emerged this week.

The council's Princess Management Committee said this week it expects the deficit to reach over £66,000 by March 2012.

The figures were revealed during a Town Council meeting on Wednesday (November 9th), which has prompted fresh questions about the financial viability of the building - particularly with £60,000 of exterior improvements being planned.

However, Cllr Chris Williams, Vice Chairman of the Princess Management Committee, told the meeting: "The Princess is performing considerably better than under its former owner, Sedgemoor District Council, which had an annual deficit of £102,000."

"When you remove our initial set-up costs of £7,338, the actual operating deficit was £20,101 in the first six months. We had a net income of £14,352 during the period and are still within our budget, and continuing to cut costs."

Town Clerk Eileen Shaw added: "The Town Council knew when it took on the ownership of The Princess that one of Sedgemoor's conditions was that it has to be used as a facility for the community, not solely for profit."

Cllr Mike Mansfield said he has concerns about the figures: "I wouldn't want to operate at that level of deficit for long." But Cllr Williams responded: "We all knew it wouldn't be plain sailing straight away."

The Princess Management Committee intends to spend £60,000 on external improvements to the building, mainly the roof, "to ensure it remains watertight and safe."

Plans for new solar panels on the roof costing £30,000 are also proceeding, with work to submit a planning application underway, however the installation is likely to be delayed.

Mrs Shaw explained: "We might postpone the work in light of recent changes to the level of funding that the government will give people with solar panels. We're waiting for an expert's report on the viability before going ahead."

Cllr Dennis Davey added: "In light of the possible reduction in income from the government, I'd question whether we still want to go ahead. I'm concerned that the money could be better used inside The Princess."

But Cllr Helen Groves responded that the £30,000 allocated to the solar panels "is not a gift to The Princess to be diverted towards internal building improvements - it has been allocated specifically for the solar panels."

The Town Clerk said any change to the expenditure would come back to the full Town Council to be considered.

Meanwhile, The Princess is pushing ahead with plans for a number of extra income-generating community activities, including holding weddings and a community theatre production.

Cllr Paul Young said: "The building has enormous potential. It is a greatly under-rated venue." first reported earlier this year on the transferal of ownership of The Princess from Sedgemoor District Council to Burnham and Highbridge Town Council. The District Council sold The Princess for the nominal sum of £1.


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