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HAZLITT CLOSURE: Now MP Helen Grant wades in ahead of crunch council meeting

Wednesday 25th November 2020

COUNCILLORS seeking to reverse Maidstone Borough Council's decision to shut the Hazlitt Theatre should be given the option to defer the matter until the New Year, says MP Helen Grant.

She has written to Cllr Martin Cox, the MBC leader, says that she "wholeheartedly" supports that the current resolution, passed by another commitee on November 12, be cancelled.

Horrified cross-party borough councillors, led by Cllr Jonathan Purle, "called in" the decision to shut the venue, sack the operator Parkwood Theatres and potentially make staff redundant before Christmas.

Cash-strapped MBC needs to make massive savings as a result of falling revenues caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

Mrs Grant tells Cllr Cox, chairman of tonight's meeting: "I am aware that the decision to terminate the contract with Parkwood has been called in by councillors, that a deferment has been requested until January 2021 and that the current resolution should be cancelled.

"I would support this motion wholeheartedly as it will allow time to explore options and take action as needed."
MBC wants to cut the annual £243,000 subsidy to Parkwood to run the Hazlitt and spend £103,000 pa keeping it shut. 

The council, according to official papers seen by Daily Downs Mail, could also mean the council is liable for redundancy payments to 40 staff members, leading to a nine month closure to achieve the savings.

The MBC decision to close the theatre has been met with a massive backlash from the public.

More than 7,000 people have signed a petition, 5,000 have joined Downs Mail's SAVE THE HAZLITT Facebook group and 86% of respondents to a poll say MBC's conduct would influence the way they vote at next May's election. (VOTE HERE)

Mrs Grant said that she is "very willing" to meet Cllr Cox and the relevant teams at MBC.

The letter asks 10 specific and detailed questions of Cllr Cox as the MBC papers are unclear about how the council would operate the Hazlitt buildings should it reopen.

MBC's policy and resources committee meeting starts at 6.30pm.