Town council split over cinema funding

ROYSTON town councillors are split over whether to commit to funding for the proposed community cinema.

Some councillors are behind the idea of “putting money where their mouth is” and backing the project before seeing the forthcoming business plan, while others are suggesting the exact cost and details of the plan should be confirmed before finalising financial details.

Town mayor Cllr Martin Beaver is one of those in favour of contributing money, which could be up to �130,000, before the business plan from fellow funders Royston First has been put together.

He said: “We have to stump up the cash for the town hall to be redeveloped in preparation for the cinema equipment. We can’t keep being a talking shop and we have to take a leap of faith and put out money where our mouth is.

“We should begin by making sure it is a more welcoming place to come and visit, which means new ladies toilets and two new halls which are fit for purpose.

“Then say for instance the cinema is not a success, we will still have two very nice halls which will be an asset for the town.

“Sometimes we can be talking so much we don’t get anything done, and what’s the point in talking when you should be doing?”

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Cllr Peter Burt, who is part of the Town Council’s finance committee, is against the idea of progressing with development until the details of what is wanted and needed are finalised.

“Until we come up with an overall plan of the whole project it’s very difficult to say ‘yes, we want to go ahead with that,’” he said.

“For example there is the possibility of having a licensed bar – fine – but are we going to or not? Things like this have a big impact on the financial model and should be sorted out before we commit to the amount we are contributing.

“This can come across as negative but it’s a question of getting the priorities right. I think what we should do is finalise a decision on what exactly we want and then go ahead and do it, rather than argue about details part way through.”

Cllr Burt said their model was to be based on the facility at Saffron Walden, although no details of how that is run have yet been revealed.

“We’ve had no details on how they operate, nothing to compare it with, and we don’t know if it’s successful. It’s believed to be but we don’t know for sure,” he said.

“Whilst these are unknowns we shouldn’t be contributing large amounts of money.”

Cllr Beaver and Cllr Burt did agree that public feedback from the plans had been positive and that they were both still strongly in favour of it going ahead.

“I’ve been to various events, especially with children and elderly people who can’t travel as easily, and they have been overwhelmingly in favour of having another facility like this in the town,” said Cllr Beaver.

Cllr Burt said: “I am still broadly in favour of having the cinema, but hope that financial concerns are addressed first.”

A decision on the finances will be confirmed at a full council meeting on May 9.