Opinion: Languid council has failed its screen test

The town is still waiting for its multiscreen cinema plan to get off the ground.
The town is still waiting for its multiscreen cinema plan to get off the ground.

One of the greatest boons about living in Scarborough has to be the Stephen Joseph Theatre (SJT). It represents quality culture at minimal inconvenience or expense. To its credit, Scarborough Council has done its bit in supporting an important facility over the years; and so they should for Scarborough’s flag is waved long and brightly by the SJT.

If you sensed a ‘but’ coming on, you guessed well. After more than 30 years of residing in this Queen of Coastal Resorts, I am still waiting for the appearance of a decent multiscreen cinema. I had hoped 2018 was going to be the year that that was put right, but no ... and why are we waiting so long?

It’s not like a decent cinema is for residents only, (who as we all know must wait in line behind the important holiday visitors). A multi-screen would have done so much over the years to cater for those dreadful days when taking a holiday on the east coast suddenly looked like a disastrous decision. Was a family with three or four children meant to traipse round the shops, trudge through a gale on the prom or play the outdated slot machines according to councillors who failed the town so badly in this matter?

If only it was possible to produce a reliable assessment of those families that dismissed Scarborough as a holiday option because there was no cinema in the place. Yes, there has been the good old Hollywood Plaza and the screening of classics at the SJT but young families in the modern age want ‘a cinema experience’ and the town cannot offer one of those.

Of course, councils don’t build cinemas, companies do.

But just how hard has the council tried over the last 30 years to find a willing venture capitalist?

I find it hard to believe that no organisation was prepared to put up the capital simply because audience numbers might take a tumble out of season.

No, the central point is that over the years Scarborough Council has been far too conservative (in the non-political sense); the Open Air Theatre being a rare 
exception.

The sheer size of the council has militated against swift purposeful 
decision making.

The notion that a relatively under-populated area like Scarborough and Whitby needs a body of 50-plus people to effect local good government is misplaced.

This is a view shared by the Boundary Commission – to the extent that they are recommending four or five fewer councillors! I would have preferred a bolder cut in percentage terms: 40 per cent rather than less than 10. Even more important than reducing the size of the council would be to change its constitution.

Just because we live in an area dominated by senior citizens doesn’t mean that we are best represented by them in local government.

We need younger minds and bolder ideas. It takes courage to stand for office if you haven’t yet passed your 40th birthday, but an injection of new blood might make ‘the future’ a central concept rather than maintenance of the status quo.

To this end, enforced 
retirement after the age of 70 or 75 might bring important change. After all, at that age, magistrates are told to step down.

Had younger and more adventurous approaches been a hallmark of council thinking 30 or so years ago, we might already have the multiscreen cinema for which this town has long been crying out.