Fringe Box



New Way Forward to Obtain a Solution for the Future of the GPO

Published on: 21 Jun, 2012
Updated on: 21 Jun, 2012

Invitations to selected organisations have been sent out asking them to express any interest in taking over the running of the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra

Already three positive responses have been received.

The thorny issue of the orchestra’s future  was the first item on the agenda at the recent meeting of a GBC Scrutiny Committee Meeting. A further report on the way ahead was expected following the last fractious discussion of the subject in April.

In the absence, for family reasons, of Jenny Powell, (Con, Clandon & Horsley) the Lead  Councillor for Culture and Leisure, and Cheif Executive, David Hill, who had presented the report discussed at the April meeting, Stephen Mansbridge, Deputy Council Leader and Lead Member for Stronger Communities (Con South, Ash and Tongham) reported to the committee.

Cllr Mansbridge said: “Following the last meeting of this committee there has been careful consideration to create a process that will get as good as result as possible.

“A series of letters have gone out to five parties – there might be a sixth. Three expressions of interest have been received, so far, which is encouraging, but they are not yet full proposals. Once all five or six have responded properly we will create a process, as advised by a consultant we are appointing, to create a level playing field on which the different proposals will be examined. That work will be finished by the end of August.

“We then envisage, so long as there is at least one viable proposal, a recommendation to be made to this committee by the 13th September. Assuming all goes well, there will be an Executive decision on 4th October.

“This is not the process agreed at the last Scrutiny Committee but for a variety of reasons, resource being the main one, The Council Leader [Tony Rooth] and myself sought the permission of the new [re-elected unopposed] chairman [Tony Phillips, LibDem, Onslow] of the committee and his [elected unopposed] deputy [Monika Juneja, Con, Burpham] to make this change of approach. They agreed that this was a clear way to obtain the best possible solution for something which in its current form is clearly unsustainable.”

Julian Lyon a member of the public who had stepped down as a member of the South East Music Trust so that he could speak freely.

He said that the orchestra through its performances had raised valuable funds which had helped support different institutions in the town such as the cathedral and other important and historic buildings. It had also contributed to Guildford’s cultural life and encouraged involvement from younger people.

He went on to make comparisons with other orchestras. In Worthing, he said,  around 50% of funding comes from the council which varies slightly from the report presented [by the Chief Executive David Hill] at the last meeting. In Bournemouth, a comparison Mr Lyon preferred, council funding made up 15% and 42% came from the Arts Council.

He also referred to a report he had written and circulated to councillors in which he had stated that  attendance figures for GPO concerts, when co-promoted concerts were included, were almost double those stated in David Hill’s report and this reduced the level of subsidy, per ticket, to £25 (gross) – around half that given in the Mr Hill’s report. He concluded by offering to assist the council in their deliberations any way he could.

In the ensuing debate Cllr Mansbridge refused to answer Cllr Reeves’ question as to whether council staff had been told what was going on.

Cllr Juneja and Cllr Matt Furniss (Con, Christchurch) separately asked why the letters inviting expressions had only just been sent out. They were advised by Cllr Mansbridge that the reasons were: the consultant had been on holiday for two weeks and; there had been a need for some time to pass to let the dust settle. He suggested they up the matter with the Chief Executive directly if they wanted more information.

Cllr Nikki Nelson Smith (Con, Christchurch) asked how wide was the remit offered to bidders. This was followed up by Cllr Anne Meredith (LibDem, Friary and St Nicolas) who asked how the evaluation would be set up to compare what could be quite different proposals by different bidders: “How will you compare apples with pears?” Cllr Mansbridge said that the consultant, who had only just received his brief, would be required to set up a fair evaluation system that would incorporate weighing up the different proposals offered. The invitations had deliberately not prescribed any particular approach those wishing to tender should take in order to encourage a wide range of imaginative ideas.

Cllr Angela Gunning (Lab, Stoke) enquired whether the invitation to expressed interest would be advertised. Cllr Mansbridge responded by saying that he did not think general advertising was appropriate as the necessary expertise was limited to a small range of organisations. Cllr David Wright (Con, Tillingbourne) added that the consultant had advised on who the council should approach. He had looked for suitable organisations on a national basis.

Cllr Terence Patrick (Con, Send) having been told that it would be up to bidders to include, or not, within their proposals, the outstanding dates in the GPO’s programme, sought confirmation that: “…the death warrant of the GPO will not be signed due to our [GBC] inaction.” Cllr Mansbridge responded: Following the deliberations of the Coucil Leader and myself the original deadline for expressions of interest was 15th July we have already received three responses a month ahead of it. Yes, there may have been slowness for various reasons but the action now we expect to be within the time frames I have given.”

Share This Post