March 8, 2016
Skating rink will return to Burnham despite £8,000 loss in first season

A skating rink will return to Burnham-On-Sea's town centre later this year, despite making an £8,000 loss last Christmas, town councillors decided last night (Monday, March 7th).

The synthetic skating rink, which was set up in Burnham's Lynton Road car park for a month over the festive season, was funded from £16,000 of council tax payers' money via a Town Council grant.

Cllr Peter Burridge Clayton from organising group BEST (Burnham Events Social Team) said: "The rink was a wonderful facility that brought extra people into Burnham and gave many families a lot of enjoyment over the Christmas period."

But while Cllr Phil Harvey praised the volunteers' efforts, he told Monday's meeting: "The total income from the rink was £29,500, of which £17,500 was due to grants from the Town Council and Sedgemoor. The total expenditure was £20,846."

"Usage of the skating rink was expected to produce a revenue of £11,172 but the actual figure was £6,637 so there was a significant over-estimate of the income that was going to be received."

"Those figures we had last September turned out to be very optimistic. Instead of the rink actually making a profit, it actually made a loss in the end of about £8,000. The outcome was not as good as we had hoped for."

"If we look at the presentation we had from BEST last September, the accounts show they actually paid £1,000 for radio advertising when they expected to get that free. Also, £4,800 of advertising income around the skating rink did not materialise and they only had £1,400 in the end."

"What we did say back at last September's meeting was that the grant would be given on the proviso that 'if there was insufficient profit from this year and therefore next year could not go ahead, the income could come back to the Town Council'. The Town Council minutes stated that 'if the event does not take place in future years' all money in the bank account up to the grant amount will be returned to the Town Council."

He continued: "I don't want to put a dampener on what has happened, but if next financial year continued on the same basis, then the £8,000 that is left would be spent. We would therefore have spent £16,000 over two years for two months of a skating rink. If that's what the council want that's fair enough, but I do think we should pause and look at things in a bit more detail."

"What I propose is that at this stage the £8,000 is placed in an earmarked fund and then we only release the money to BEST once we have received from them a costed plan for 2016 which we think is realistic."

"What I don't want to do is say 'OK, you lost £8,000 this year but we don't mind you losing another £8,000 next year. I don't think that's what the people of this town want us to do. The figures in the first year of operation are bound to be a bit out, but I think they were a lot out."

"I propose that we claw the money back and put it in an earmarked fund and then await a realistic costing for this year's event before we release it."

Cllr Peter Burridge Clayton, who represented BEST at the meeting but did not vote, responded: "The £16,000 that was given last year in grant funding was basically for the rink itself and staffing the rink. That amount actually came to £17,070 which we funded ourselves, but all the extras such as the generator, fencing, marquee, advertising and everything else was funded by BEST themselves."

On working with other groups, he added that because the skating rink "is not in the Town Centre it was felt that we could cope without progressing or using the Town Centre Manager." He went on to say that BEST felt it had worked with the Chamber of Trade.

"The amount of income we created was £15,000 which is achievable again. We do have quite a bit of support, or BEST has quite a bit of support."

"The rink this year will be at a considerably reduced cost - we have been offered a bigger rink in the region of £7,000, therefore there is a great saving there and we will also make a big saving on the staffing costs which were £4,000."

"It's disappointing to hear the word 'lost' - the seafront fireworks cost over £8,000 a year for a 20-minute show but this is a wonderful facility for the people of our area and that's what it cost. If this Town Council doesn't want an ice rink at no extra cost to the tax payer this year then so be it and the money will be returned but we lose a wonderful facility for the town."

Cllr Janet Keen said: "I entirely agree that it has been a marvellous thing. We have been exalted in many directions to always promote, assist and encourage any form of activity that brings visitors to the town any time of the year."

"Cllr Harvey's proposal is too serious and to be taken as a vote without due and deeper consideration and I would ask that his proposal be deferred to the next Policy & Finance Committee or the next Town Council because the figures are simply too large."

Cllr Louise Parkin added: "As the only member of the Town Council in the leisure and tourism business, I don't have a problem with these figures in general. If I do something new I don't always expect to see a profit for a couple of years at least. Several mistakes were made, notably in advertising and I believe that will be rectified this year. The larger size rink will increase the number of people who will want to go as there were a few complaints that it was quite small so that will help to rectify things."

"I personally would like to see the rink uncovered - I think ice skating outdoors is more of a spectacle. If the weather's hideous you can't do much but there's a lot more of the time when you can."

Cllr Nick Tolley added: "Hat's off to BEST for the unpaid work and effort they put in to put a 'seed' in this town that we can cultivate and grow. Nobody expected that the money would be turned into a profit by February. A couple of observations - the rink is wonderful for Burnham, and the Lynton Road car park was shut off for half its total area even though the extra rides planned there did not arrive and that led to a loss of revenue. Personally, I sincerely hope the rink does happen again and that it continues to grow."

Cllr Bill Hancock said: "All things like this are very hard to get off the ground in the first year and I was against this at the time but I must congratulate the team on what they've done. They've got their foot in the doorway now and rather than delaying this until a later meeting, let's give them the agreement now to get on and go. It takes months to get sponsors and funding together."

Cllr Martin Cox added: "The first year is always a difficult year but they have proved they have support by raising £12,000 on top of the council money and I was impressed at the support shown. Children and adults enjoyed the event. I would be happy to let them have a second year."

Cllr Hoggarth said: "The report is better than I anticipated. Cllr Harvey is quite right to point that several items are missing that were pointed out at last September's meeting. I think there is a difficult balance here between trying to make sure that if we go forward with it, that next year's event is really better than the one that happened. I don't think it's incorrect to say that there should be scrutiny but a discussion about what went right, wrong and what could be done better and to quantify the costs involved."

Cllr Burridge-Clayton responded: "If we get the go-ahead tonight we would be delighted to come back and work with the council and if there's any experience that can be given to us then we will be more than happy to take it."

Cllr Paul Young added: "If we can put our heads together on this I think it can be a great success."

He asked whether BEST has considered buying a rink, to which Cllr Burridge-Clayton said: "Yes, we have looked at buying one from Switzerland which costs £40,000 and are waiting for details on a cheaper one in China."

Cllr Kate Lawson added that she was pleased to hear that ice hockey could be played at the rink in the future, benefiting local sports development.

Councillors voted in favour of allowing BEST to retain the £8,000 towards the costs of running the rink for a second year, with the proviso that there is full communication and involvement with the Town Council on the plans.


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