Opinion: ‘Key theatre’s closure plan short-sighted’

Councillor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peterborough City Council, writes...

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 28th December 2021, 3:00 pm
Cinderella at the Key Theatre. EMN-210212-221947009
Cinderella at the Key Theatre. EMN-210212-221947009

Imagine you own a restaurant. You have a cash flow issue.

To address the gaps in your budget, you decide to shut off part of your establishment; you may save some costs on electricity.

Or imagine that you sell off some chairs and tables.

Imagine you send the chefs home for part of the day to save on wages. In the name of a short-term gain, have you actually put yourself in a position to fix the real problem?

Of course not. However, by shutting the Key Theatre, Peterborough Council is guilty of just such an error.

There is little doubt that the continuing pandemic is constricting trade. However, even socially distanced, safe activities do require an incentive.

Entertainment, such as that offered by Key Theatre, provides this.

Furthermore, shutting the Key Theatre may cause talent to depart for more stable employment; the damage, unlike the closure, may be long lasting.

When the pandemic ends, we will need entertainment to attract people to the city centre.

It is worth asking, how did we get into such a mess? After all, the council has a £26.5 million funding gap. The closure of the Key Theatre is only a drop in the bucket.

The Conservatives have run national government for more than a decade; they’ve run Peterborough Council for more than two.

They had plenty of time to “fix the roof while the sun was shining”.

They did not.

They didn’t anticipate that the fortunes of the city would fluctuate and require a calibrated response. We are just meant to accept the narrative that the pandemic has created a unique set of circumstances.

Oh really? The pandemic did not create white elephant projects, nor the outsourcing of the solar panel programme.

It did not focus on headlines instead of quiet, thoroughgoing improvements to our city and its services.

The current leadership of the council did that.

Yes, some of those responsible are sitting in different chairs, but they are still the same group.

The Labour Group believes that the present administration has neither the will, nor the authority, to address the present crisis. I suspect we will blunder on for a time, perhaps getting some bridging funding from central government here, defer expenditure there. None of this will remedy the deep-rooted problems in how the council is run, how our tax money is spent, what choices it makes.

Only a change in administration will do that.

We are heading into a somewhat precarious Christmas break.

I hope for the best, but I fear that we will have more trials ahead.

I believe that the people of Peterborough, unlike the present administration, are more than up to the challenge.

For now though, I hope that we can be of good cheer and everyone has a pleasant break.

If we choose, things can improve in 2022. If we choose, we can take a different path, less “pound foolish” than the current one.

If we choose, we can make our city a better run and better place to live.