Alhambra council funding sent to scrutiny committee

The canopy at the Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline has been restored to how it would have been in 1922
The canopy at the Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline has been restored to how it would have been in 1922

Plans to inject £150,000 of council money into the Alhambra Theatre will now come under the spotlight of the local authority’s scrutiny committee.

The proposed funding was agreed by the executive committee last week but then turned down by Alhambra Theatre Trust (ATT) which runs the privately owned Dunfermline venue – the single biggest theatre in the Kingdom.

Now, Councillor Tim Brett, leader of the Lib Dems, has won enough support to take it the scrutiny committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

Cllr Brett secured the backing of five councillors in his bid to have the matter looked at – support came from Cllrs Donald Lothian, Dave Dempsey, Joe Rosiejak, Margaret Taylor and Elizbabeth Riches.

Papers lodged online today laid out the reasons for the matter being taken to the scrutiny committee.

It recognises the “valuable contribution” made by the Alhambra to the town, but adds it “does not believe it is appropriate to provide financial support to ATT.”

Cllr Brett’s submission says the commitment of funds without detailed financial information “sets a dangerous precedent.”

The submission states it is not clear whether a formal request for financial support was made.

It says no detailed financial and peformance information was provided and it “was unclear” if ATT had submitted a business case and “whether this had been considered.”

It further said no details were given on the criteria that should be used before the £150,000 was given to ATT – and said “once started there would be great pressure to continue or increase this.”

And it concludes: “Given the very serious financial position facing the Council, no proper evaluation was given to the priority of this funding against others, and, in particular, services that will have to be cut or reduced in future years.”

The funding package proposed to the executive committee recommended £150,000 per year for three years, plus underwriting up to £50,000 of losses bringing major west end shows to the venue.

The issue of allowing ATT to operate both the Alhambra and the Carnegie Hall was to be the subject of a further six months of negotiations.

After councillors voted for a one-off injection of £150,000, the Alhambra trust publicly declined the cash.

It said it “never asked for” and “does not intend” to take up the offer of a one-off £150,000 injection, stating: “We have made it clear in our meetings with Fife Council from the outset that this is not the outcome that we sought.”

It criticised the wording of the report which went to councillors as “skewed.”