Thursday, 10 November 2011

Lib Dem Confusion over Berry Prices

New Signs at The Berry
Only a month after Hedge End Town Council agreed to subsidise local community groups who want to hire The Berry Theatre (as reported  here),  Eastleigh Borough Council's Lib Dem cabinet have bulldozed through a 5% increase in hire charges for both professional and community performances.  Normally this price hike would just make it even more difficult, if not impossible, for community organisations to use their local community theatre.  In the light of the Town Council's subsidy, however, the effect is that more council tax payers' funds will simply be transferred from Hedge End to Eastleigh.

It is also noteworthy that Cllr Louise Bloom ousted long serving chair Cllr Pearl Hicks in an internal Lib Dem coup to take over control of the Community and Culture Committee in May at the same time as the committee extended its terms of reference to include the Town Council's relationship with The Berry.  Cllr Bloom is also, of course, a leading member of the very cabinet which is pushing through these increases even in the face of criticism from the Council's own Resources Scrutiny Panel.  She consequently finds herself having been at one meeting where it was agreed the community rates were too expensive for local groups, and another where it was agreed to increase those same rates.

The Town Council is right to support The Berry, particularly in its early years while the theatre struggles in the Con Dem Coalition's age of austerity to get established as the high class arts venue we all want it to become. Eastleigh should surely have followed the Town's lead and frozen prices for the second year of The Berry's operation.

Interestingly, as car park charges are also increased across the Borough (as reported by Eastleigh News here), Eastleigh decided to keep charges for the Hedge End Station car park at their current level.  Perhaps this is in recognition that the car park is under-used while commuters still park for free in nearby streets, making it difficult for the Lib Dems to justify their plans to extend the car park on to the adjacent wild flower meadow.  (See my post on this subject here)

Following this summer's embarrassment of having the sign outside The Berry obscured by overgrown foliage within two months of the theatre's opening (see picture here) the Council have moved it to a better position.  It is good to see them responding to constructive criticism.


  1. The more stories of this nature that I read, the more I'm convinced that we'd be better off with a single tier of local Government...

  2. Unbelievable - I thought the facility was for the use of the community? The charges are already very expensive for amateurs. Wildern School will no doubt claim it as a school hall. Hedge End Town Council have wasted even more of our money.