The Chair of the Economic Regeneration and Leisure Committee, who took the decision to end the contract with Parkwood Theatres, has spoken of the decision and future for Hazlitt Theatre.

Maidstone Borough Council’s Cllr Paul Harper told Jason McCrossan on Drive Time that the committee decision was the result of a projected council overspend, the second national lockdown coming into effect and uncertainly around when the theatre would be able to open again.

Cllr Harper confirmed that “tough financial decisions” had to be taken as the council has a projected overspend this year (2020/21) of £5m and there is concern that next’s years council budgets could also be heavily effected by COVID19.

Maidstone Borough Council pay a subsidy of £20,000 per month to Parkwood Theatres to put on community and professional shows and events. Cllr Harper said “with the ongoing lockdown and the pandemic, rule of six and social distancing, it is unlikely, in the foreseeable future that the Hazlitt will be able to reopen”. However, he stated that the committee would review the situation and the council would look to reopen the theatre once the COVID restrictions had eased.

When asked about whether the decision would have an effect on Parkwood’s ability to furlough their staff, Cllr harper said “it is possible if you are about to make your staff redundant to continue to furlough them until the end of the period. But obviously those would be decisions for Parkwood. From the councils perspective we’re effectively paying Parkwood £20,000 per month for a service they are unable to deliver”.


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