Matthew Palmer... you asked the Dame to put up the letter to your witless leader. Here it is...hardly deranged. Though derangement is something your council colleagues believe you suffer from!!!
Dear Cllr Cockell
I wrote to you in very clear terms in 2008 objecting to the Cabinet decision to set up Chelsea Care. As a businessman it was clear to me that the venture was doomed to failure and I also told you that the Council should not be dabbling in the risk business. Now we know that the venture racked up losses of £1 million and was liquidated in 2011.
I am writing to you again to place on record my strong objection to the Cabinet decision last night to continue funding Holland Park Opera via the new wheeze of a self standing company. Like Chelsea Care before, it is clear to me that this will end in tears. It is the risk business again and lies outside the competence of local Government. Opera is a very high cost and high risk art form for a select minority. It should not by funded by council tax and it is wrong to make trade off decisions against the needs of the poor and vulnerable. It is also unacceptable that resident objections, and Scrutiny Committee cautions, were not mentioned at all at the Cabinet meeting. Residents are, after all, pumping in approximately £1.5 million of support every year from our council tax.
Cllr Paget-Brown stated that the objective of the new strategy and the new self standing company is to reduce risk. The new Board will be given three years to become self funding. But the subsidy has increased relentlessly from £100k ten years ago to nearly £1 million last year (FOI data). The Friends currently raise £250k per year. The Chairman elect of the new company said last night that he will hire a fundraiser in order to increase the Friends contribution. A fundraiser will cost him £150k. And a self standing company will require a Director of Administration (consider the Royal Opera House Organisation chart). That is another £100k. And the staff who are currently on local Government pay and conditions (eight permanent and more temporary staff during the season) will have their rations scaled back to match market rates. Dissatisfaction and perhaps attrition will follow. The slightest signs of wobble will destabilise Investec and their £200k sponsorship. You have created a huge risk downside.
In fact, the current set up is the minimum risk option! And the elephant in the room was never discussed. What happens when the self funding wish does not happen?
HPO should never have been allowed to happen. It is a one off that is not appropriate for a local authority. Council tax funding should cease and let the market decide. Options include closure; the emergence of a rich patron; or absorption by a full scale operation like Covent Garden who might be able to grow and nurture it.
It was disingenuous for Tot Brill and other councillors to chirp on about "affordable opera" for local residents. The minimum price point for tickets at Covent Garden is £9 which compares with £12 for HPO.
A copy of this note goes to my Ward councillors and also the Chief Executive.