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Upset at community group's failed bid to run Swindon Arts Centre
A COMMUNITY group which made a bid to take over the reins of Swindon’s Arts Centre has voiced its disappointment at what it says is the council’s unclear application process, after the bid faltered.
Swindon Council’s cabinet has been recommended to enter negotiations with the current provider at the Wyvern Theatre to include the Arts Centre within the contract arrangements.
In March the authority launched a programme to find alternative ways to fund its leisure and cultural services by outsourcing its management to private providers. The council has to make savings of £3.6m from its leisure and culture budget by April next year.
During the first phase, interested parties were invited to make bids, which the Arts Centre for the Community group did, along with the Wyvern Theatre management company.
Under plans for the theatre in Old Town, council bosses, at a meeting tomorrow, are expected to approve proposals to allow Wyvern’s management to run it.
But the chairman of Arts Centre for the Community, Alan Wrixon, said his group’s application was rejected on unfair grounds.
“We are particularly disappointed that we have not even got to the position of putting forward a business plan,” said Alan. “We were asked to initially put forward a document demonstrating our ability to prepare such a bid. We did this.
“We believe that this was a credible document and should have easily opened the door to submitting the full business case.
“We were therefore totally surprised when our document was rejected mainly for not having certain content that we believed was only required at the next stage.
“There was clearly a misunderstanding with those concerned at the council and we were again disappointed that after we pointed this out we were still ruled out of the competition.”
“The final proposal goes to the council. You are, of course, able to lobby your councillor or MP prior to that meeting if you wish.”
A Swindon Council spokesman said: “Arts Centre for the Community showed they were really passionate about the Arts Centre, so we were disappointed that they were unable to provide sufficient information on the key elements that were needed to demonstrate they could submit a credible bid in a competitive procurement process.
“We had a number of meetings with various representatives of the group, gave them as much information as we could and extended the deadline twice for Cabinet to consider the way forward, from June to September.
“It became clear following our market research that a procurement exercise at this time would not have been the best use of council taxpayers’ money.
“The report going before cabinet on Wednesday will ensure that theatre provision in Swindon is sustainable and will provide best value at a reduced cost.
“Cabinet will be asked to ensure that current Arts Centre and Wyvern Theatre local community users have the chance to meet with representatives of the Wyvern Theatre operator to feed in their views before the contract extension is finalised.
“We are also keen that the current contract’s schedule on community use is also reviewed in light of feedback from local groups and users.”
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