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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Holland Park Opera Fat Lady Singing For Another £4.5 Million..£10million already gone!

Scrutiny Committee considers £4.5 million funding for Holland Park Opera on Monday 12th March

The Dame has been studying a report to the Public Realm Scrutiny Committee on proposals to spin off on money gobbling Holland Park Opera to an independent company. Yes, it sounds good. At last hard done by RBK&C taxpayers will be released from supporting a Chelsea Care type lame duck. Sadly, it is not quite like that.  On March 22 the Council will probably agree to guarantee funding for another three years-and most likely beyond.
In other words cash strapped residents will have to guarantee a staggering £4.5million.
For years, residents have questioned the amount of Council Tax used to subsidise Holland Park Opera. FOI data shows that the level of subsidy (cash) is running at about £1 million per year (that’s council tax spending)
But it does not end there.... HPO sucks in a vast range of Council services including HR, IT Support, free office space and the canopy which has to be replaced with frequency. A guesstimate is perhaps another £500k a year
A £4.5 Million Folly
The Council argues that it wants to “reach out and touch residents with opera”. This of course is nonsense. Only a short bus ride away are the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden (tickets available for £9) and The English National Opera (tickets available for £22). Holland Park Opera tickets can be had for £12. HPO is the only civic run opera in the country and the Cabinet has been plundering council tax to fund another Trophy project.
The new proposal is to spin HPO into a private company. But what does this entail? Probably a continued subsidy of £500k per year (council tax cash) and overhead support valued at another £150k. Pension protection (of course!) for council employees who transfer to the new company. The canopy given for free (recently installed at a cost of more than £1 million) and land leased for a peppercorn rent. Finance capital cost of £80k per year for the canopy absorbed by the Council and a three year grant settlement to be negotiated. This is a procedural sidestep that attempts to silence those council tax payers who do not believe that local councils should be in the business of putting on opera. Under this smokescreen, the Opera will carry on regardless with council tax subsidy. Add it all up and the full cost of subsidy is at least £1.5 million per year, or £4.5 million over three years.
But the most worrying aspect of all is the way that the Cabinet paper has been written. Hundreds of words of “council speak” from officials and consultants who have concentrated on “procedure” (not a single word about managing creativity). This is a jumble of logic that is another Chelsea Care waiting to happen. Cllr Moylan, the architect of Exhibition Road, has emerged as the champion of HPO and is urging his colleagues to support it:most will be bullied into submission.
Lots of hard work has gone into bringing HPO to where it is. Plus about £10 million of council tax subsidy already spent. This is a venture that should never have been started. There can be no justification for it in the circumstances of today. We should try to save the venture by offering it lock, stock and barrel to people who know about opera and might be interested to add it on to their existing operations...without council tax subsidy. 
The Royal Opera House, English National Opera and the Touring Opera companies (eg Welsh National Opera) should all be approached. If nothing comes of this, HPO should be closed down
So go on Cllr Cockell. Make the phone call. Telephone Tony Hall, the Chief Executive of Covent Garden and ask him in for a chat. Ask him “What works for you”. Don’t start with all the conditions that the Council wants to lay down, like preserving pensions and doing school visits.
And would readers of this blog please register their views. What is your opinion? Do you really care how your council tax is spent....or do you think we are rich enough to afford fripperies like this?


  1. This is shocking news. The current Leadership of the Council seems determined to keep this elephant going while cutting back services for the elderly, poor and infirm. Monstrous

  2. A cynical exercise to try and fool hard pressed tax payers that they are being listened to

  3. A monster that should never have been created. It will all end in tears

  4. This is a council of big spenders.
    Holland Park School, Exhibitionist Rd, Chelsea Care, Holland Park Opera.
    Taxpayers pay Moylan £135,000 year so as far as he is concerned it's a case of 'I'm alright Jack.
    It will be too much to hope that any councillor will vote against yet more millions being wasted on this unwanted Opera

  5. Kensington Resident6 March 2012 at 22:27

    This is what happens when the council strays from its job of clearing dustbins and sweeping the parks

    Puffed up councillors play at being Benefactors (Holland Park Opera) and philanthropists (Exhibition Road and Holland Park School) and they dabble disastrously in business (Chelsea Care)

    Time to get a grip on things and stick to the knitting.

  6. This is a chance for the Public Realm Scrutiny Committee, under the Leadership of Cllr Gardiner, to flex its muscles, show some common sense, listen to residents, and exert some authority.

    Are they up for it?

  7. HPO should be scrapped now.

  8. As a resident of this borough I want 'our' money spent on services that are going to support vulnerable people, elderly, disabled, children and our teenagers whose future is bleak.

    We are being told we have to 'tighten our belts it's a time of austerity' and then we find out that these idiots are being allowed to fund an overblown sheet which not very many local people go to anyway. Why? Because they are too busy trying to work to keep a roof over their heads, food on their table and educate their children.

    This is an utter disgrace and an insult to residents whose support services are being cut because we are being told there is no money.

    It yet again demonstrates the contempt this tiny man, bobbin pooed and his bullying sherry men mob have for residents. This should be stopped now by this scrutiny committee and the money reallocated for direct frontline services.

  9. They all think they are the Medicis, that's for sure, but it's not their money!

    They forget that the purpose of the Council is to serve their residents, not to indulge their every whim and waste hard-earned cash on frivolities.

    Michael Volpe is overpaid and underworked; perhaps he should be redeployed!

  10. Holland Park Opera is a major drain on Council resources and is funded by coucil tax. However with nearly £200 million in the bank the Council can continue to subsidise the Opera if this is what the Cabinet decides that it wants to do.

    Paper A9 which recommends continued funding of the Opera will be considered by Cabinet on 22nd March. The paper states that the grant to HPO was approximately £500k in 2011 and this should be inflation proofed for the next three years.

    The actual cost to the Council in 2011 (including central and departmental recharges and capital charges) was £920,835.

    These figures do not include the cost of erecting, dismantling and storing the canopy and fixtures and fittings, which includes seating, the platforms, catering and bar facilities and restaurant seating. This is provided free. Nor does it include rental for the site and offices in Holland Park used by the staff. On a commercial basis the opportunity cost is of the order of £1,5 million per year.

  11. This report to Cabinet that recommends continued funding of HPO is a dogs breakfast.

    The sponsoring Cabinet member is Cllr Paget-Brown who is completely out of his depth on this one. The author is Tot Brill, recently made redundant as a result of the Tri Borough and given "special projects" to work out her notice. Desperate to scramble back on board the ship and secure the "Assistant Chief Executive" post she was bounced into producing a "report". Any report.

    Tot rolled the dice and cobbled together a load of nonsense that is rivaled only by the September 2008 Report to Cabinet that recommended the setting up of Chelsea Care

  12. Is Mike Volpe of Holland Park Opera a friend of Cllr Nick Paget-Brown?

  13. Holland Park Opera is indeed a luxurywhich RBKC residents can ill afford. I takes the national coffers to support an opera house, not an itsy-bitsy borough...

    Great opportunity for a "Consult the People" campaign to give the residents (spines attached) a vote on the thing!

    Mobile: 0779647160

  14. K*C residents can buy seats for the big operas at Covent Garden for £9. Cheaper than Holland Park Opera.

    Covent Garden is a short bus ride away.

  15. Residents have not agreed for our monies to be spent on this opera, where is their bid to have this funding, what have they done for local people, and what are their outcomes, this is meant to be the process, have they made a profit ever and if so where has it gone?

    Why are we having to fund this at all at the expense of vulnerable people it's a complete disgrace.

    Residents should write their objections to every member of this scrutiny committee to remind THEM who they are working for.

  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  17. Good point 10.22

    We need a "drains up" on all the profligate spending and a Judge Jeffries to oversee the process

  18. Lib Dems are losers

  19. Four years ago, the esteemed Daily Telegraph critic Rupert Christiansen called many of the rarities that Opera Holland Park has become famed for reviving "unmitigated tosh".

    So we taxpayers are being expected to pay millions to hear unmitigated tosh.
    Lucky Paget-Brown is a friend of Vople:maybe that is the reason we support HPO


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