Council bosses say £70,000 has been wiped off the running costs of The Apex, in Bury St Edmunds - but concerns remain over its tax-payer funded subsidy.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council hailed a ‘successful year’ for its flagship venue for 2013/14 with hosted events increasing from 198 last year to 270 as well as a 2,700 boost in seat sales to 47,862.
Meanwhile, there was an underspend of £43,187 with the venue costing £699,063. The council’s budget for The Apex for 2014/15 is £672,000.
Council leaders have admitted there is ‘more work to do to further reduce the public subsidy’ and a marketing strategy is being developed to increase the use of the building for hall hire.
However, some councillors raised concerns about the size of the venue’s subsidy.
Independent Cllr David Nettleton argued that over the next three years the venue would ‘lose’ about £2 million in the next three years based on the current level of subsidy. He said: “It isn’t sustainable. They’re doing their best but they’re not going to make it pay.” On the subsidy, he said: “That was in the days when local Government had surplus funds. People are objecting to council tax rises, the Government’s cutting the grants and local councils are being squeezed in the middle. It can’t afford luxuries like The Apex.”
Independent Cllr Trevor Beckwith said the venue ‘isn’t big enough to attract the sorts of events that will ensure it stands alone.”
But Green Cllr Julia Wakelam said she supported The Apex noting that ‘it’s becoming a really valuable community resource and brings money into the town’.
Cllr Sarah Stamp, cabinet member for leisure, culture and heritage, said the increase in events and ticket sales while coming in under budget was a ‘real success story’. She said: “We are acting more commercially, taking calculated risks, negotiating hard for the share of profits we receive for the events that we put on – and it is paying off. Of course Rome wasn’t built in a day and I am far from complacent - there is a lot more work to do to build on this success and further reduce the public subsidy. But we are working closely with our partners, and there are some promising developments in the pipeline. In addition to all of this we have had some incredible feedback from performers and visitors to The Apex over the past month which demonstrate the real value of the venue.” The council noted that a number of events could relocate to The Apex as catering firm Sodexo ends its contract at Ickworth House in November.