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SAVE THE HAZLITT: Crunch council meeting to decide venue's future TONIGHT

Tuesday 26th January 2021

SUPPORTERS of the Hazlitt Theatre will discover this evening if their fight to save the much-loved venue has been successful.
Maidstone Borough Council's leisure committee sits tonight and an option to keep Parkwood Theatres in charge at a cost of £243,000 a year is on the table.
MBC's leadership was trying to mothball the theatre to save cash after COVID-19 decimated the authority's revenues and was forced to find £2m in savings.
But it had not expected the huge backlash from the public which saw more than 5,000 local people back the Downs Mail's SAVE THE HAZLITT campaign launched the evening the announcement was made.
A cross-party decision in November to follow unelected council officers' advice was overturned.
Last Monday, the council announced it was to stay with Parkwood Theatres, if approved by elected members tonight. 
We understand the four Conservative members will vote to keep the Parkwood contract.
But it is not known how Cllr Martin Cox (Liberal Democrat), Cllr Paul Harper (Labour) and Fay Gooch (independent), whose groups run MBC in coalition, will decide to vote.
Official recommendations now state: "That the Council continues to pay its agreed contract fee to Parkwood Leisure for the provision of services at the Hazlitt Arts Centre. That officers continue to monitor Parkwood Leisure’s performance with respect to the delivery of the requirements of the Hazlitt Arts Centre Services Contract as defined by the Key Performance Indicators and make further recommendations in April 2021."
Campaigner and Tory councillor Jonathan Purle, who led the public backlash, said: "I certainly welcome this recommendation as it’s the complete opposite of what the council proposed when they wanted to fire the operator and key staff and mothball the building.This shows that we were right to have that decision over-turned and I’m really grateful to those councillors who voted with me and to all the theatre lovers who lobbied hard.