|Paget-Brown playing Medici with our money|
A carefully stage managed Cabinet Meeting the other night made passing reference to the Scrutiny Committee report as another £4.5 million of your council tax was pumped into Holland Park Opera until 2015.
The Dame was surprised to hear from Opera Buff that tucked away-so no one would notice-(except the wily Dame) was a 'negotiation' with Newco. Why a 'negotiation'? Who knows.... but what it concerns is the T&C's for premises and back office supply. This carefully concealed subsidy is worth another £1 million every year. Is it worth it?One critic says avoid
In a decade, you, the taxpayer, have seen the subsidy rise from £100,000 a year to £1 million. A trajectory which mirrors, in percentage terms, Cockell's astonishing rise in allowances!
Clearly, embarrassed by this frittering of our money, Cllr Paget-Brown, the hapless and mentally taxed deputy to Pooter has come up with a 'self standing company'.
The idea is to bolt the stable door to stop HPO bolting away with any more of our money. Paget-Brown is a nice chap, but has never run a business and likes the idea of being a Patron of the Arts! What our 'whiz kid' cannot grasp is that the current arrangement of support and administration by the Council is the low risk option.
Cllr Coleridge asked the Chairman elect of the new company if the "Friends" would put more personal effort into raising money to make the company self financing. "Yes" said the Chairman elect, having to think on his feet, "We will hire a fund raiser"- at a cost of £150,000 a year!
So the cat is out of the bag. The Friends contribute £250k per year to HPO, A fund raiser will cost £150k per year, so that additional overhead will load the risk. And then there will be the need to hire a Director of Administration (just look at the organisation chart of the Royal Opera ) and that is another £100k. And if there is the slightest wobble, the current sponsor (Investec), who put in £200k per year will 'exit left'. This is the new risk profile. But none of this, of course, was discussed. And probably not understood - just like Chelsea Care.
A hard hitting report from the Public Realm Scrutiny Committee was buried. Chairman Joanna Gardiner was "unable to attend the Cabinet". Her report was rubbished by Cllr Lightfoot and Cllr Buxton who invented Chelsea Care. Not a word from a single Cabinet member about the opposition from residents and Labour councillors about the Council using huge amounts of tax payers money to support home grown opera when there are two world class alternatives (the Royal Opera and English National Opera) just down the road.
In a shameful let down by the Officer class, the report's author Tot Brill was singing for her supper. She stated that HPO plays to 90% houses compared with London theatres who play to 60% houses. She forgot to add that many HPO tickets are given away for free and Covent Garden plays to 98% houses. Dotty Totty also 'laid it' on that the Council is making available "affordable opera". She forgot to mention that Covent Garden seats are cheaper than HPO seats!
Cllr Lightfoot summed up the complete breakdown of democracy in the Borough when he concluded the farce by saying that "Comparisons with Chelsea Care are irrelevant. This is about how we choose to allocate cash". No one dared to acknowledge the elephant in the room - what happens when self financing does not happen? The only light relief came from observing Cllr Eliazabeth Campbell who is playing herself into her new Cabinet role. She obviously thinks she is Margret Thatcher reincarnated - copy cat hairstyle, and copy cat mannerisms. She is still working on the voice...a remarkably stupid woman.