Ipswich Regent faces another dark year as financial crisis hits hard
- Credit: Archant
It could be another year before shows return to the Ipswich Regent after the coronavirus pandemic – and Ipswich Council has seen its financial cushion wiped out by the effects of the last eight months, a new report reveals.
The borough’s executive is expected to approve a new range of cuts – including closing the customer service centre in the Town Hall – as it continues to struggle with the legacy of the pandemic.
Back in early March the council’s reserves, designed to protect it from the effects of a “rainy day,” totalled £6.8m. Now they stand at £50,000. Borough leader David Ellesemere said: “That is pretty scary. We have no option but to go ahead with some further cuts.”
There was an emergency budget in July which led to the closure, among other things, of the Tourist Information Centre in St Stephen’s Church – but further cuts are now needed.
Mr Ellesmere said: “At that time we thought that things should be able to return to something like normal at the end of the financial year, next April. Now it is pretty clear that is not the case and we will have to make arrangements accordingly – I don’t think there will be ‘normal’ shows at the Regent again until well into the next financial year, maybe next autumn.”
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The council has suffered a big hit from loss of income. The number of cars using its car parks, especially the long-term car parks used by town centre workers, has not recovered since the lockdown which has hit council income.
Sports facilities which need to observe social distancing can allow nowhere near their normal numbers of visitors – although they do need to use the same numbers of staff.
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Council-owned business sites like IP-City are not getting bookings for conferences or temporary office space.
Among the cuts being considered are closing the customer service centre from March 2022. Mr Ellesmere said that in September only eight people needed face-to-face meetings in the centre. The Regent box office would close and ticket sales would shift online or to the phone. And the council plans to use perennial plants in its flower beds so staff do not have to change floral displays in parks and roundabouts every few months.
The council has warned that it faces a deficit of £4.6m over the next four years, and these measures should help to ease the pressure – but if there was no recovery in the near future further measures could be necessary.