'No justification' to change loan

PUBLISHED: 13:00 13 February 2009 | UPDATED: 10:29 10 June 2010

A FORMER mayor and patron of the Blackmore Theatre has accused the district council of being 'mean spirited' for refusing to turn the remainder of a £70,000 loan into a grant. Cllr Eileen Wragg backed the Exmouth Players' request in November to turn the o

A FORMER mayor and patron of the Blackmore Theatre has accused the district council of being 'mean spirited' for refusing to turn the remainder of a £70,000 loan into a grant.Cllr Eileen Wragg backed the Exmouth Players' request in November to turn the outstanding £4,000 balance of the loan into a grant so they could upgrade the theatre.The request was backed by the town council's finance committee; the Blackmore Theatre was only granted a licence in 1984 and in 2004 they decided the theatre needed improvement work.This include a new toilet block, lift and stairs, a new lighting box, alterations to the dressing room and to the existing toilets. Work on the scenery, wardrobe and the changing store was also needed, as well as to the rehearsal room, a new bar and beer store and upgrades to the stage and auditorium.But five years after plans for disabled access were first mooted at an initial cost of £50,000, disabled access has still not been completed.Councillor Eileen Wragg, who has financially supported the theatre through county council grants, said: "It's mean spirited and penny-pinching."They have paid the majority of the loan back, and are working flat out in performing to try and get the money coming in."It's unfair, Exmouth pays a third of all council tax for East Devon, and EDDC have just recently given a grant for £70,000 to the Thelma Hulbert Gallery in Honiton."Not to get this support from EDDC is appalling at a time we need to get visitors coming to Exmouth."But Diccon Pearce, EDDC's corporate director, economy, in a letter to the town council, said he could see no justification in granting the request.EDDC made the interest free loan in 2000 and Mr Pearce said: "... (the loan) provided them with relief from a significant financial burden which they would have faced had they raised the funds from a bank or similar financial institution."The loan was negotiated on the basis of the company being in a position to meet its future liabilities."As I have not received any information to suggest otherwise, I see no justification for a recommendation to managers that the terms of that legal agreement now be revised."Town clerk John Wokersien said the players "...just wanted to reduce their future liabilities and make the burden lighter for the future."The response by the district council will be discussed at Monday's town council finance meeting.

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