Wirral Council will review the future of a historic theatre in Wirral as it continues to lose money.
The Floral Pavilion in the coastal town of New Brighton has existed in some form since 1913 though the current building has only existed since 2008. The theatre is currently the largest multi-purpose venue on the Wirral but has continued to see losses in income over recent years.
It has been described as a “centrepiece” in New Brighton, which “brings enjoyment and no small measure of pride to thousands of residents throughout the borough.” Many famous artists such as Cilla Black and Sir Ken Dodd have appeared at the theatre.
In 2018 Wirral Council said it was looking for a new operator which could have brought West End productions to the Wirral. However, the search for a private company failed.
As a result, the council has still failed to achieve a £550,000 saving from it subsidising the venue and has concluded “it will be necessary to carry out a review of the service.” This is according to a tourism committee report which said theatre, hospitality and catering services were costing the council nearly £1.5m.
To tackle this issue, the council report said, “The new management team have reduced costs through improved operations and improved income generation through innovating the programme of shows, events and other activities taking place at the venue” and it will now limit non-staffing costs to essential items only.
The report said this shortfall was due to reduced income, rising costs of services and goods though things are improving.
In March 2020 just before the pandemic, Cllr Julie McManus, then the cabinet member for community services, said a private lease would not have delivered the savings the council needed and it would be moving things in house aiming to increase visitor spending.
She said, “This is an exciting opportunity for Wirral and I am delighted that it looks likely the Floral will stay ‘in-house’, retaining its rightful place not just at the heart of the borough’s cultural offer, but at the heart of the New Brighton and wider Wirral community.”
However Conservatives criticised the management of the theatre at the time and in 2023, Conservative councillor Jenny Johnson pointed to the recent losses, adding, “I think this is an example of Wirral Council unfortunately not being able to manage their budget properly, not being able run a centre properly, and not being able to bring the income in.”
She added, “It’s something much bigger and it’s something I think we need to be looking at as a committee because of the sheer volume of losses coming from it.”
Officers said a review would come back to the committee with recommendations and options for councillors to consider.