Regarding the fiasco of the Guildhall “cinema”.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Abingdon Town Council,
Could we please have a full breakdown of all costs involved with this, down to the last penny?
What monies were spent on “fact-finding”, entertaining, soft-soaping, of potential cinema operators?
Iain Littlejohn, who was responsible for this at the outcome, keeps saying (Abingdon Blog comments), that there was a commercially viable operator who could have made this work. Is this so, and who was this operator. (Cannot be commercially sensitive now that there is no longer a potential for a cinema) , and if so why wasn't this operator taken up on this?
Will any councillors responsible for this, (past or present), be held to account for wasting tax-payers money?

Yours faithfully,
AbingdonFirst

Nigel Warner, Abingdon Town Council

Dear Sir or Madam

 

Thank you for your request in relation to the above, receipt of which I
acknowledge.

 

I shall respond within the statutory timescale of 20 working days from
receipt of your request i.e. by end of 3rd March 2017.

 

Yours faithfully

 

Nigel Warner

Town Clerk

Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council

Tel: 01235 522642

Fax: 01235 533112

 

 

The information in this e-mail, together with any attachments, is
confidential. If you have received this message in error you must not
print off, copy, use or disclose the contents. The information may be
covered by legal and/or professional privilege. Please delete from your
system and inform the sender of the error. As an e-mail can be an informal
method of communication, the views expressed may be personal to the sender
and should not be taken as necessarily representing the views of the
Council. As emails are transmitted over a public network the Council
cannot accept any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this
message. It is your responsibility to carry out all necessary virus
checks. You should be aware that all emails received and sent by this
Council are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and therefore
may be disclosed to other parties under that Act.

 

 

Nigel Warner, Abingdon Town Council

1 Attachment

3^rd March 2017

 

Abingdon First

 

By e-mail

 

 

Dear Sir / Madam

 

Freedom of Information Request – Guildhall and Cinema Improvement  Project

 

Thank you for your email of 4^th February 2017 in relation to the above.

 

Please treat this email as the Council’s formal response to your various
requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.  In
general, this email confirms when information is held by the Council and
provides you with it, except where exemptions are applied and redactions
are made for the reasons given below.

 

I will answer your requests in the order in which they were posed and
repeat each question in turn.

 

 1. Could we please have a full breakdown of all costs involved with this,
down to the last penny?

 

The subject matter of your request is “regarding the fiasco at the
Guildhall Cinema”.  As there is no project by such a name, I take this to
mean the Abingdon Guildhall and Cinema Improvement Project (Guildhall
Phase 2 work). I have taken the start date for this capital project as
being the commissioning of a report in relation to the Guildhall and arts/
cinema in October 2011 and the end date of the project as being June 2015,
when the Council passed the resolution which is detailed below (section
3).  The breakdown of costs in relation to the project, which are spread
over a period of five financial years, is attached.

 

In presenting this information it should be noted that the scope of the
Guildhall and Cinema Improvement Project was much wider than providing a
cinema at the Guildhall.  In summary, the scope of the Project was to
regenerate the 1966 section of the property, including the Abbey Hall,
alongside some works to the historic part of the Guildhall.

 

The plans included the following:

 

o New Purpose built 100 seat cinema by way of extension to the Abbey
Hall;
o Improved and refurbished 220 seat multi-use Abbey Hall with potential
for being second screen;
o Separate entrance for cinema;
o Café Bar area with glazed aspect to street;
o Improved DDA access through glazed lift;
o Various heritage improvements to older buildings;
o Retain commercial kitchen.

Consequently, I have included the costs in relation to the wider capital
project and this will include items which do not relate to the proposed
cinema and which relate to the building more generally, beyond this
specific project. It is not possible to allocate or apportion the costs
which relate specifically to the cinema aspects of this Project.

 

It should also be noted that the costs include (i) those of making an
application for a major HLF grant and (ii) requesting expressions of
interest in the Project from commercial cinema operators following which
the Council invited a number of operators to submit “Outline Solutions” in
relation to the Project. 

 

 

 

 2. What monies were spent on “fact finding”, entertaining, soft-soaping
of potential cinema operators?  The expenditure in relation to the
Abingdon Guildhall and Cinema Improvement Project are attached. 
Depending on your definition of “fact finding,” monies were spent on
“fact finding” across most of the various categories which are shown. 
There was no expenditure on “entertaining, soft-soaping of potential
cinema operators”. 

 

 3. Iain Littlejohn, who was responsible for this at the outcome, keeps
saying (Abingdon Blog comments), that there was a commercially viable
operator who could have made this work.  Is this so, and who was this
operator.  (Cannot be confidentially sensitive now that there is no
longer potential for a cinema), and if so, why wasn’t this operator
taken up on this? 

 

As a point of information, Iain Littlejohn was Chairman of the Guildhall
Committee when the Guildhall Cinema project commenced i.e. at the outset. 
However Mr Littlejohn was not a councillor in June 2015 when the Council
decided not to proceed with the Project and therefore was not party to the
decision “at the outcome”. 

 

I can confirm that, following advertising for expressions of interest in
the Project, the Council invited a number of operators to submit “Outline
Solutions” in relation to the Project. 

 

In your question you refer to “a commercially viable operator”.  What
constitutes a commercially viable operator, or a commercially viable
operation, may viewed to be a subjective opinion and not an information
request. However I can confirm that all the bidders who were invited to
provide Outline Solutions in relation to the project were established
cinema operators. 

 

You go on to ask “why wasn’t the operator taken up on this?” The reason
that none of tenders was accepted is detailed in part of the resolution of
the Town Council of 24^th June 2015 when it was resolved that:

 

“following the tender exercise undertaken earlier this year, the bidders
be advised that, having reviewed the tenders, the Council would not be
taking its proposals forward. This is because:

 

i. The levels of capital investment were not sufficient for the Council to
be able to afford the project without a loan which the Council
considers to be an unreasonable cost against future budgets and

 

ii. Proposals in terms of ownership, management and operation were such
that these were not compatible with the continued operation of the
facility as a public and community asset and facility.”

 

 

In relation to your request for the Council to disclose who “the
commercially viable operator” was there were, as stated above, a number of
bidders who submitted tenders and I am not in a position to release their
details.  This is on the basis of the absolute exemption set out in
Section 41 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which states:

 

“(1) information is exempt if – a) it was obtained by the public authority
from any other person (including another public authority), and b) the
disclosure of the information to the public (otherwise and under this Act)
by the public authority holding it would constitute a breach of confidence
actionable by that or any other person.”

 

The guidance on this exemption is clear in that it is designed to give
those who provide confidential information to public authorities assurance
that their confidences will continue to be respected.  However, the
Council is aware of its duty to consider the public’s interest in
disclosure when weighing it against its the duty of confidentiality.  In
this case, it is considered that the public interest in disclosure does
not outweigh that of confidentiality.  The procurement process in relation
to cinema tenders was dealt with under confidential session and the
Council gave assurances, both at meetings and in the documentation to
bidders, that their identity and their bids would remain confidential. 

 

 

 4. Will any councillors responsible for this (past or present), be held
to account for wasting tax payers money?  

 

This is not a request for information.  However, I would confirm that all
expenditure on the Guildhall and Cinema Improvement Project was made
properly by the Council using its powers to incur expenditure in relation
to a service, the Guildhall, a service which is the responsibility of the
Town Council.       

 

 

Yours sincerely 

 

Nigel Warner

Town Clerk

Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council

Tel: 01235 522642

Fax: 01235 533112

 

 

The information in this e-mail, together with any attachments, is
confidential. If you have received this message in error you must not
print off, copy, use or disclose the contents. The information may be
covered by legal and/or professional privilege. Please delete from your
system and inform the sender of the error. As an e-mail can be an informal
method of communication, the views expressed may be personal to the sender
and should not be taken as necessarily representing the views of the
Council. As emails are transmitted over a public network the Council
cannot accept any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this
message. It is your responsibility to carry out all necessary virus
checks. You should be aware that all emails received and sent by this
Council are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and therefore
may be disclosed to other parties under that Act.

 

 

 

Looking for an EU Authority?

You can request documents directly from EU Institutions at our sister site AskTheEU.org . Find out more .

AskTheEU.org