The business case for the construction of Chatham Big Screen stated there would be ‘a proactive programme of one off events including concerts, festival, films and sporting events’, but this proactive programme has not been forthcoming. The Big Screen was constructed using a government grant of £2.9 million, and costs the council anywhere between £15000-£30000 per year to run.
Cllr Naushabah Khan held the leader of the council to account on this issue at full council on 19th July.
Cllr Naushabah Khan, Councillor for Gillingham South said, ‘The World Cup finals have been held every four years since the tournament began which means the council have plenty of time for forward planning, including organising a sufficient police presence to supervise the event so that we don’t have a repeat of the unfortunate incident at the Command House earlier this summer. It’s not just disappointing that the World Cup was not shown on the Big Screen; with the exclusion of the screening of a single opera, the Big Screen has never been used for its intended purpose. The whole point of the Big Screen is to bring the community together and to promote sport and culture, so how can the council justify the running costs of the Big Screen if it’s not being used for its original purpose? It’s simply not good enough and has so far been a waste of taxpayer’s money. The council needs to follow through on this project otherwise the Big Screen will end up an expensive eyesore.’
Cost of building/maintaining Chatham Big Screen:
Cllr Khan’s question to Cllr Jarrett:
In the business case for the Chatham Big Screen to the South East Local Enterprise Partnership it stated there would be a “a proactive programme of one off events including concerts, festival, films and sporting events.” – Could the Leader confirm how many of the World Cup 2018 games have been shown on the Chatham Big Screen?
Cllr Jarrett’s response:
Thank you for your question Councillor Khan.
Like the rest of the nation, we were delighted by the performance of the England team in the recent Football World Cup and send our congratulations to them on getting to the semi-finals and our commiserations on being beaten by Croatia. As the team progressed up the ladder we did indeed look into the opportunities to screen the semi-finals on the Big Screen as it would have been an ideal opportunity and venue to screen such an important match for our country and create a family friendly event for many to enjoy.
As you would expect, it’s not just a case of switching on the TV to BBC or ITV when it comes to screening events of such significant national importance. Events need to be planned and staffed along with partner agencies such as the police and fire service to ensure that people can enjoy themselves in a safe environment.
Very sadly, after consultation with our colleagues in the police, we concluded that it was not going to be possible to achieve this during the week of the semi finals and finals. The disappointing events at the Command House the previous week, combined with the deployment of a number of our police officers to other duties outside Medway linked to the visit of President Trump, led the police to conclude that, at such short notice, it just wasn’t possible to confidently make the screenings a safe event for all those attending. In addition, the Council’s own events team and stewards were already fully committed with the running of the Castle Concerts.
We were disappointed that on this occasion it just wasn’t possible – we are as proud as anyone of our national heroes. We are keen to use the Big Screen for such events in future and will look into opportunities, with sufficient notice, for screenings of events and activities for the enjoyment of the people of Medway.