After a very long debate last night councillors made the difficult decision that they had no option but to give notice to terminate the contract to run The Castle theatre.
The Castle Wellingborough Ltd is a charity which won the contract to run the arts centre in 2011, knowing that the amount of grant the council could provide to assist with its running costs would need to reduce over time, and that the charity would therefore have to generate enough revenue or find alternative funding to make up the shortfall. The council’s own financial situation has been challenging for a number of years, and it was made clear to The Castle Wellingborough Ltd when it won the contract that the same level of non-statutory funding could not continue. Because of this The Castle Wellingborough Ltd came to the council in December 2015 with a plan to develop the facility and become self-funding, which councillors welcomed. Councillors view The Castle as a pivotal part of the cultural offering in the town centre and would be very sorry to lose it. Research into the viability of the proposed development has brought to light the fact that the company’s financial liabilities are significant. As a result of this councillors felt unable to support the company’s request and – once the true state of their finances was known – unable to continue with the existing contract.
The Leader of the Council, Councillor Paul Bell said "The Castle theatre was paid for by the people of Wellingborough and the council wants to see it survive and thrive. It needs to be run well and the council cannot continue to use public money to fund a company which has shown such poor financial management. Last night councillors made a very difficult decision, but I really hope that, by giving The Castle Wellingborough Ltd six months’ notice, the council will have time to find another way of running the theatre. Many local people have expressed their support for a period of review and consultation about its future – so that is what the council is proposing." The council has made it very clear that they want to see the cultural quarter of the town continue and flourish, and will be considering how best to do that. Part of that will involve discussions with the community before meeting further to consider how best to continue the arts provision in the town."