Calls have been made for Sefton Council to operate Southport Theatre and Convention Centre.
Cllr John Pugh, Leader of Sefton Liberal Democrats and the former MP for Southport, wants to see the local authority run the centre so it can begin building a programme of events in anticipation of full reopening by 2021.
It follows the announcement yesterday that the firm appointed to run the STCC on a three year lease has gone into liquidation, citing the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis.
Cllr Pugh said: “Programmes and events need to be planned and booked years in advance and any delay now could result in 2021 being quite as bad as 2020.
“The consequences for a town whose economy has been been dealt a body blow by Covid-19 and lockdown could be disastrous unless the council picks up the pieces now and intervenes.
“The best option would be for the council to set up their own company following the model of places like Harrogate.
“We need an immediate hands-on approach. Historically this was the role of the Council’s Director of Tourism.
“A long-tendering process to find a new operator would be fatal and in current circumstances is only likely to attract speculators ready to take advantage of the council’s plight.
“I recognise that in the current situation the council doesn’t need any additional challenges, but this is an economic crisis and decisive action is needed.”
Earlier today Sefton Council insisted that Southport Theatre and Convention Centre is “central to the town’s offer” and remains an important part of its plans.
Cllr Marion Atkinson, Sefton Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Skills said:
“Southport has a vibrant economy and of course we understand and appreciate the impact that Covid-19 / Coronavirus has had on many of the town’s businesses, including Southport Theatre and Convention Centre.
“For now, the venue remains closed, however we at Sefton Council, despite the current constraints, are continually reviewing plans for the reopening, and for the long-term future of this important venue and project, including the welfare of staff at the centre.
“We will review any maintenance and improvements that are needed to the centre whilst it remains closed to ensure its long-term, sustainable future.
“Sefton Council has continued to work closely and proactively with many partners on recovery plans for Southport, and there are still many exciting opportunities for the town in the future.
“Southport Theatre and Convention Centre is central to the town’s offer and remains an important part of our plans for the town.”
Stephen Katz of David Rubin and Partners has been appointed and consultation will now begin with all affected staff. A dedicated contact email has been established:
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