A Community Asset Transfer (CAT), securing the future of Bath’s celebrated Mission Theatre, will go ahead after a Council watchdog panel rejected a challenge to the decision.
This formal Council procedure allows opposition Councillors to bring decisions taken by Cabinet members to the relevant Council committee for scrutiny. In this case, the decision was “called in” by 9 Independent, Labour and Conservative Councillors, who objected to the CAT model.
Community Asset Transfers allow property assets to be transferred into community ownership in recognition that this can provide better outcomes, offer better value as well as create greater freedoms for partner organisations to tailor services and draw down external investment.
The Mission Theatre CAT would transfer the building on a 99 year lease with a peppercorn rent and enable the company to make some investment into the building as well as create new job opportunities and additional community activities.
Panel members heard from public speakers including members and directors of the Next Stage Theatre Company, from the call in lead Councillor and the Cabinet member. The call in was dismissed by 8 votes in favour of dismissal, 0 votes against and 1 abstention, meaning the CAT can now go ahead.
Speaking at the panel meeting, Cabinet member for Economic Development and Resources, Councillor Richard Samuel, said:
“The CAT decision I made represents the best way forward for the restoration of the Mission Theatre and secures the building as a place for performing arts for many years to come, providing substantial benefit to our local community that we serve.
“CATs are a means of ensuring that better community outcomes can reached from the use of the council’s assets. It is important to remember that we hold these assets on behalf of our community.
“Decisions such as this are not purely about money. They are about what the Council can do to make the lives of as many of our citizens as full as possible. In that regard having a flourishing performing arts venue enriches lives and provides clear social purpose.
“Rejection of this call-in enables the council to conclude the arrangements to secure the future of the Mission Theatre as a venue for the performing arts in Bath. A lot of work has gone into this proposal over several years and we clearly saw the commitment and passion from the speakers. We should be proud to have such advocates in our community and instead of placing unnecessary obstacles in their way the Council should be supportive.”
Councillor Dine Romero, Cabinet member for Children and Young People, Communities and Culture, added:
“The Lib Dem administration is committed to supporting the arts and culture, as a vital part of what makes Bath and North East Somerset such a special place. We are delighted that this Community Asset Transfer will help to support the long-term viability of the Mission Theatre.”