Tag Archives: Opera Holland Park

NEW SCANDAL OVER ‘FLOP OPERA’ HOLLAND PARK

 THE OPERA THEY COULDN’T GIVE AWAY

Calamity Jane21.1.15

(left, it’s a stick-up)

Scandal-riddled Opera Holland Park is being ‘let off’ from making essential improvements while it is in the process of ‘potential externalisation’. The loss-making opera – the only civic-run opera in the country – is run by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea who underwrite their losses. These have amounted to a staggering £6.6m since 2001, against revenue expenditure of nearly £30m in the same period, plus capital investment of over £2m. In 2009-10 alone the opera lost the Council nearly £1m, and it is only the current modest annual sponsorship deal that brings it below that figure every year.

The latest outrage has seen the organisation refusing to implement some improvements that were proposed after an Internal Audit in 2013. Auditors gave the organisation a ‘Limited Assurance Report’, demanding that various improvements be made, including: drafting clear procedures and guidance notes; delivering transparent financial accounting; having a transparent tendering process for the residential orchestra and costume suppliers; maintaining an inventory; maintaining a hospitality register stating outcomes and registering resultant donations, plus controlling the use and number of complimentary tickets; agreeing guidance for appropriate use of purchase cards, and retaining full VAT receipts; ensuring staff are eligible to work in the UK; and regularising employee contracts.

The Audit was conducted soon after the Council failed in its first attempt in 2012 to off-load responsibility for the opera by handing it over to a controlling group to run it as a mutual. The current attempt goes a step further, by offering £5m to take it away!

Labour Group Leader Cllr Emma Dent Coad said: ‘It beggars belief that a non-viable organisation funded and run by the Council has such poor accounting and control systems. It is indefensible and frankly shocking that staff are refusing to implement proper standards demanded by Auditors because they are waiting for a further bail-out.  No voluntary organisation in receipt of Council funds would get away with such conduct. The Council must set aside their plan to give a dowry of £5m to off-load this financial black hole, let OPH have a dignified demise, and instead use these funds to protect frontline services that people need. This would also save the  ‘backroom costs’ that have reached £412,000/year, which is more than the sum the Council says it cannot find to continue to provide Play Services that enable low-income working families to work full-time.’

 

TORIES ‘INSULT TO STRUGGLING FAMILIES’

Council prioritises opera over vulnerable and homeless


th 223.11.14

Kensington and Chelsea Labour Group Councillors are appalled to learn that the Council is planning to make a one-off payment of £5m to dispose of the loss-making Opera Holland Park. In a ‘face-saving’ deal to get rid of the annual embarrassment of losing up to £1m/year on this expensive 18-year vanity project, a proposal has been concocted for a settlement to help re-form the opera into a charitable trust from 2016.

This £5m (plus a loss of interest of £150,000) is intended ‘to cover losses until 2023’, by which time it is hoped the organisation will be in profit. However, given total backroom costs of £412,000 for staffing, marketing, depreciation, and insurance, it will be an uphill struggle. And there is no discussion in the documents of how much the Council will charge the Opera to use its prime facilities in Holland Park.

These proposals come within the context of yet another year of crushing cuts in services. The disaster of the new contract for Special Educational Needs children’s transport, which put our most vulnerable children at risk, was the result of the ‘difficult decision in the face of austerity’ to save £447,000/year – a sum almost equal to the backroom costs of running the Opera. A further £415,000 is to be sliced off the Play Services budget, making it increasingly difficult for working parents to find affordable after-school and holiday childcare. And £500,000 has already been sliced from Youth Services.

Labour Group Chair Cllr Pat Mason said: ‘Giving £5m to set up an independent opera charity is unacceptable when the Council plans to slash another £13.5m from vital frontline services next year. This includes £3.9m from adult social care, £1.9m from children’s services, and £691,000 from the housing budget, including reducing services to homeless people by £150,000. Spending £5m on opera when many of our residents are deep in debt, using food banks and seeing services cut is truly scandalous.’

Public Realm spokesperson Cllr Robert Thompson said: ‘”Against the background of cuts in council services which affect the most underprivileged in our borough this proposal embodies how the ruling Conservatives prefer culture for the few rather than care for the many.”

Leader of the Labour Group Cllr Emma Dent Coad said: ‘It has never been clearer that the Council is using the language of austerity to justify ideological decisions. The self-professed ‘richest Council in the universe’ can find cash for the opera, but makes ‘tough decisions’ when it comes to vulnerable and struggling residents. Once again Kensington and Chelsea Tories have been caught squeezing the vulnerable to fund indulgence.’

LINK TO DOCUMENT GOING TO PUBLIC REALM COMMITTEE 26.11.14