BURY’S civic halls are still well short of operating at a profit, a new report has revealed.
In the past three tax years, Ramsbottom Civic Hall, the Elizabethan Suite in Bury, the Longfield Suite in Prestwich, and Radcliffe Civic Suite, lost a total of £1,271,800, with the shortfall met by the taxpayer.
Bury Council called in consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and the latest report shows that, while PWC’s suggestions are achieving some goals, the halls have lost £530,600 in the current tax year, which ends on Monday.
PWC recommended making changes such as simplifying prices, making catering more flexible and hosting more wedding receptions.
In the report, which came before Bury Overview and Scrutiny Committee at a town hall meeting on Tuesday, the council’s assistant director of operations Neil Long, said: “The actions are showing positive results . . . but the budget overall this year has not improved.
“Progress . . . is inhibited by the inability to invest in the fabric and facilities of the building.”
Kevin Hodges, of the Save Our Suites campaign group, said: “Any investment would be welcome and is long overdue.”
He added: “PWC stated the suites could be run as public/private partnerships, emulating other authorities that have successfully retained their suites.”
But leisure representative, Cllr Jane Lewis, of Labour, dismissed the idea, pointing out several elsewhere had folded recently.
Bury Conservatives leader, Cllr Iain Gartside, said: “The continued taxpayer subsidy shows no sign of coming down, despite promises made when Labour took office in 2011.
“Usage levels need to increase a lot more if they are to break even at some point in the future.
“PWC suggests investment to achieve this, which is worth consideration when the council’s available reserves are currently in order of £9 million.”
Cllr Lewis added: “Cllr Gartside has many ideas for how to spend our reserves many times over.
“This report shows new ideas are being put into practice and have brought about results.
“We have still got a lot more to try, such as introducing a new Visit Bury website hopefully in April and, at some point, it may well be that we look into at whether making physical improvements to the suites would generate revenue.”
To read the full report: visit www.tinyurl.com/civichallsreport