Can increased wages resolve staffing headache which led to Leighton Buzzard Theatre cut schedule?

Increased wages are set to be offered to attract theatre technicians in Leighton Buzzard, after six unsuccessful recruitment attempts, a meeting heard.

By Euan Duncan
Friday, 10th June 2022, 3:11 pm
Updated Friday, 10th June 2022, 11:12 pm

Part of the summer programme for the town's theatre has been cancelled because of the vacancies, Central Bedfordshire Council's sustainable communities overview and scrutiny committee was told today (Friday, June 10).

"We operate those facilities with a number of technical services officers, with two full-time and two part-time posts," explained Conservative Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno.

"We've advertised them six times, including paid adverts in theatre publications, on job websites and in newspapers, but without success.

Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre

"Twice we've appointed candidates who subsequently withdrew over the salary level. The open market unfortunately pays somewhat more money than CBC."

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After a full-time technical officer left in March the role was advertised via recruitment agencies, which also failed to produce any suitable candidates.

"This left us with one technical officer to run the theatre, so we needed to reduce the programme level," he added.

"That staff member is unfortunately off unwell until the end of June. We've casual staff with limited availability who can cover some shows.

"We're working with human resources to re-evaluate the role with a view to making the salary more attractive and in line with theatres nationally.

"Then we'll be going out to recruitment again and hopefully fill that gap. We've also approached Stevenage Leisure to see if we can use some of their technical staff.

"It's very regrettable and we need to address the challenges that recruitment to this role is presenting."

Independent Linslade councillor Victoria Harvey appreciated "the swift response", saying: "It's been very devastating for the Leighton Buzzard drama group.

"There are a number of London theatre technicians in Leighton Buzzard and we could consider a more innovative role of using highly trained and experienced volunteers linked in with the library."

Conservative Heath and Reach councillor Mark Versallion agreed, adding: "There's definitely a strong community from the West End performing arts living in and around Leighton Buzzard.

"I would advocate what's being done around the contract for the Grove Theatre in Dunstable by having a resilience. When employees leave, are ill or under pressure because of workloads you can move staff around because there are a dozen facilities, not one or two.

"In employing someone who works part-time in the West End, or used to, doesn't give us that (flexibility) when they're unavailable. I agree it's been very upsetting for the Leighton Buzzard drama group."

Conservative Linslade councillor Gordon Perham suggested staff leaving put pressure on the last person, saying: "I think we could see some of this coming. Wages have been low and that's why we haven't attracted anyone. I'm sorry it's been a little slow."

Councillor Dalgarno, who's the executive member for community resources, replied: "Advertising is a long process. We realised we were under-resourced in this area and we've recognised there's a gap in remuneration."

Drama group chairman Colin Aldous warned previously: "Having no productions in the theatre is already causing the group financial and reputational damage."