Opinion: ‘Theatre closure is with heavy heart’

Wayne Fitzgerald, city council leader and Conservative group leader on Peterborough City Council writes...

Tuesday, 28th December 2021, 1:30 pm
The Key Theatre

As I write my final column of the year, like many people I am wondering what the new year might bring in terms of the return of restrictions on our lives.

The Omicron variant has seen cases of the virus soar and you are now much more likely to catch Covid than ever before.

Government has asked us to be careful and keep following the guidance – wear a mask indoors when required to do so, keep fresh air circulating and take a rapid test before you visit elderly or vulnerable residents.

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Please, do what you can to protect yourself and your loved ones this Christmas and limit mixing with people outside of your household as much as possible. Meet people outdoors if you can and if you are meeting up, take a rapid test before you go.

Most importantly, if you have not done so already, get your booster vaccine and if you’ve not had your first two doses, get those too.

This week I visited the mass vaccination centre at Queensgate and was very impressed once again to see the great job the staff there are doing.

Thousands of people are being vaccinated every day, no doubt saving countless lives, and now staff are pulling out all the stops to accelerate the booster programme. The vaccine may not stop you getting Covid, but it could stop you becoming seriously ill or ending up in hospital.

All the data shows us that you are much more likely to end up in hospital with Covid-19 if you’re unvaccinated.

I have been saying for some time that we have difficult decisions ahead about services we may no longer be able to afford. I knew this when I became leader in May and promised it wouldn’t be something I shied away from.

Our financial situation is severe and decisive action is urgently needed to get us on a more stable footing. We have a plan to achieve that, which was signed off by members at an Extraordinary Council meeting last Thursday.

It is for this reason, with a heavy heart, we have proposed the temporary closure of the Key Theatre and Werrington Leisure Centre in the new year.

We’ve never wanted to make proposals such as these – what politician would – and we have done everything in our power to avoid them, but it is essential that we do so now to be able to meet the very severe financial challenge that we face.

In the current financial year, the Key Theatre is forecast to make a loss in the region of £300,000 and that continues into 2022/23. The leisure facilities are forecast to make a net loss for 2021/22 of £190,000, increasing to £205,000 for 2022/23.

I know there is a lot of affection for the Key Theatre and I welcome the success of the petitions as it shows the level of support there is in the city for the venue, which bodes well for us trying to find an alternative provider, which we are actively trying to do.

I hope we will have a positive outcome early in the new year for the Key Theatre and all its users.

I would also urge everyone who has signed the petition to buy tickets for the panto which runs until January 9 and give it a sell-out Christmas season.

The future of Peterborough’s market has been widely debated for many years and an exciting resolution is now being planned.

People have told us that they want the market relocated closer to the city centre and this could become a reality, with plans for a new-look modern market in Bridge Street to be debated by our planning committee next month.

If approved, 12 new market stalls will be created in the heart of the city, boosting footfall and establishing a vibrant new market close to Cathedral Square, the proposed new Vine library and culture hub and within walking distance of the new ARU University and Fletton Quays. Seven traders would move across from the Northminster site and there would be scope for additional traders along with seasonal/pop-up markets, such as a vegan, Christmas or farmers’ market.

If the plans are approved, this will be a big boost for our city centre, creating a must-shop destination for residents, visitors and tourists.

If you’re heading for a night out over the festive period, you’ll be pleased to hear that you can get home safely thanks to our taxi marshals.

Marshals will be operating every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, as well as Sunday, December 26, and Sunday, January 2, on the Broadway and New Road taxi ranks, preventing alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour and ensuring passengers can access taxis quickly and get home safely.

The safety of the public is our utmost priority and the marshals provide a valuable service, particularly at busy times such as the Christmas and New Year period.

Please remember to keep safe while out and about – take a rapid test before heading out and follow the hands, space, face guidance where possible.

Finally, it just remains for me to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Don’t forget that the council closed from 1pm on Christmas Eve and will be open on a number of dates up until the new year.

Many of our services will still be available online during this time, so visit www.peterborough.gov.uk