Peterborough City Council councillors have reacted angrily to the overnight news that the Key Theatre, Werrington Leisure Centre and potentially the libraries in the city are to close on a temporary basis.
The council held an Extraordinary Full Council meeting (December 16) to approve a temporary Capital Moratorium Programme that could save up to £9.435m.
Those savings will help towards balancing the budget – a legal requirement – in time for 11 March 2022.
However, the closure of the Key Theatre and Werrington Leisure Centre caused an angry reaction from Cllr Ed Murphy who said: “On many occasions this administration has wasted its resources.
“Just before tonight’s meeting started, we had a Cabinet Member decision notice to say that the Key Theatre will close and that the leisure centre at Werrington will close to the public in January.
“We’ve bought the old Woolworth building which is technically flawed and is closed.
“The situation is critical – we’ve got assets, and we should use those assets – having them empty, and making people redundant to keep them empty, isn’t effective use of those assets.”
Cllr Nick Sandford, while understanding of the reasoning behind asset sales, also had concerns and added: “Selectively selling-off assets to build up reserves can be a good thing.
“But that becomes a self-defeating process because if you put assets in to balance the budget one year, you need to put more assets in the following year.
“So, it’s not a very prudent way of managing the budget and I’m actually quite surprised that it’s been suggested that that is something we should do.
“Every asset that the council owns and decides to keep must be made to work harder to deliver on our corporate objectives.”
Cllr Andy Coles, Cabinet Member for Finance, explained the temporary moratorium, saying: “The proposal is a ‘pause’ in spending, not a cancellation of projects.
“The Capital budget has already been revised down to just under £85m from the original £133m; but there is scope for further reductions of £9.435m”
Peterborough City Council has a legal obligation to balance the budget for the 2021/22 financial year by 11 March 2022.
Should the council fail to balance the budget, it risks losing control of its’ finances to central government.