Row over approved cinema funding

ROYSTON town council controversially committed to spending �130,000 on the new community cinema at a meeting last week, leaving some councillors unhappy with the decision.

They voted in favour of putting forward the sum, which will be used to renovate the building, even though they are yet to see the outline business plan from Royston First.

This has left Cllr Paul Grimes, among others, worried about the use of the money.

“It’s far to early for us to commit to this amount of money when we are uncertain of so many details,” he said. “There is no certainty over who is running it, if it will make a profit, what form it will take – we just don’t know.

“I was dismayed at the impatience of my colleagues, when for the sake of only a month or two, maybe even the next meeting, we could have had some business plans that would enable us to make a more accurate decision.

“For example we don’t know for sure whether we will be selling food or drink. From what I understand about cinemas they don’t make their money from ticket sales, it’s the food and drink that helps them survive.”

Mr Grimes, who is a professional accountant, said: “I am the only qualified finance professional on the town council, and I control budgets and review business cases as part of my job. If I put forward this case without knowing all the details then I would be laughed out of the building. There is no way it would go forward.”

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He did say he was “strongly in favour” of the idea of a cinema in general.

Cllr Peter Burt backed his colleague at the meeting. He said: “I would hate the council to spend money on something when they don’t know exactly what they are getting.”

But the pair were outnumbered by the rest of the council, who voted in favour of committing to the funds.

Cllr F John Smith said: “I don’t think it’s a problem to commit at this stage, in fact I think it’s essential and perfectly safe to put forward the money.

Cllr Phillip Mayne agreed, saying: “The hall needs to be rejuvenated and this money should be spent on the town.”

Cllr Martin Beaver said he felt embarrassed when told by the mayor of Royston’s German twin town Grossalmerode that “nothing has changed in Royston, not even the curtains in the town hall”.

The boutique cinema will feature 3D capabilities, and is scheduled to open in March 2012.