New charitable body considered for Congress and Devonshire Park Theatres

Cabinet councillors have agreed to explore governance changes at Eastbourne’s Congress Theatre and Devonshire Park Theatre. 

At Wednesday's meeting (February 8), the councillors accepted a recommendation by the cross-party Devonshire Park Governance Board to move towards the creation of a new charitable body to govern the two theatres at the Devonshire Quarter complex while the buildings remain under council ownership

Councillor David Tutt, Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, said: “I am proud of the high-quality, thriving cultural, leisure and business offer that we have created at Devonshire Quarter, making Eastbourne an even better place to live and visit, as well as hugely increasing the town’s profile regionally and nationally. 

“Looking ahead, it’s important that we continue to grow the reputation of the Congress and Devonshire Park Theatres alongside accessing financial investment from outside sources which are not available if they continue under council ownership. Therefore, to further strengthen these theatres' contribution to the town and local economy, the most appropriate management structure for them is by a new, independent charitable body.” 

The move also represents the de-risking of various costs and responsibilities for the council, brings VAT benefits and has the ability to deliver a greater impact than a council-owned and operated service. 

In line with recommendations by the Devonshire Park Governance Group, there will be a staged approach to forming the charitable entity, with the creation of a Local Authority Controlled Company (LACC) as an interim step from April 2023. 

A LACC is a company which is a subsidiary of the local authority. Eastbourne Borough Council has experience in recent years of setting up a LACC with the establishment of South East Environmental Services Ltd (SEESL). 

Councillor Tutt added: “The creation of a LACC for an interim period will allow us time to develop a robust business case for the operation of the theatres by a charitable body and ensure they have a sustainable future for the enjoyment of residents and visitors for many years to come.”

Published on February 13, 2023.