ARUN’S chief executive has admitted the council altered a contract which ultimately led to the downfall of Littlehampton’s last remaining cinema.
The revelation came during a public meeting held by the East Beach Residents’ Association at Littlehampton Town Council’s New Millennium Chamber, at which town, district and county councillor Dr James Walsh showed a letter penned by Arun District’s Council’s chief executive, Nigel Lynn.
The correspondence was in response to a question posed by district councillor for Rustington East, Graham Tyler, at an Arun cabinet meeting last month discussing the council’s draft leisure strategy.
Mr Tyler asked who gave Inspire Leisure – the charitable trust running Arun’s leisure services – permission to stop screening films at The Windmill Entertainment Centre?
Addressing the 200 people packed into the chamber last Wednesday, Dr Walsh said: “Arun has constantly tried to shift the blame for the closure of the cinema. Unknown to most of the councillors, an agreement had been signed, in July, which omitted the need for cinema provision to be provided by Inspire.
“Arun has been complicit in closing the cinema and reducing the cinema facilities. I challenge them to deny that.”
Asked by the Gazette about Arun’s decision to cut cinema provision from Inspire’s contract, Mr Lynn said that dwindling attendance figures – with an average of just 30 people per screening – combined with the subsidy required to maintain the Windmill, had been a major factor.
He said: “Arun District Council has stated right from the start of the leisure strategy debate that the decision by Inspire Leisure not to run a cinema at the Windmill is based on the requirement that its budget be reduced by £300,000 by 2015.
“The form that cinema will take at the Windmill is, ultimately, an Inspire decision.
“However, Arun District Council did alter the core services in a meeting attended by myself, Inspire Leisure and Inspire Trustees to say that cinema was no longer an essential core service. This meeting took place in July and the decision was made with the agreement of all parties.
“However, it is clear that with an average of 30 visits to each cinema showing, the cinema was not a cost-effective service for Inspire to continue to run.”