Cardiff theatres to replace ushers with volunteers

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The number of paid ushers at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall and New Theatre is at risk of being cut, under money-saving proposals being considered by the city’s council.

Cardiff Council’s budget proposals for 2013/14 include a “review of stewarding” at both venues, which are run and funded by the local authority.

A total of £181,000 is currently spent on paying 80 stewards at both venues, but Cardiff Council is proposing to lower this amount by reducing the number of paid posts and making use of volunteers.

The authority’s proposal, which is one of many aimed at saving it a total of £22 million, states: “St David’s Hall and New Theatre employ stewards who undertake meet and greet duties, showing audiences to seats, etc. In addition, they provide an essential role in evacuating the buildings should that be necessary.”

It adds: “It is proposed to revise operating practices with a view to reducing total headcount and backfilling some activities with volunteers. A number of other venues in the UK use this model.”

A council spokeswoman said the proposal will see headcount reduced by “natural wastage”, meaning employees will not be replaced when they leave.

“There are 80 performance staff employed at New Theatre and St David’s Hall, and no one is losing their job. The greater proportion of staff will still be paid. However, volunteers will undertake no cash handling duties such as welcoming patrons and ticket tearing. Similar front-of-house schemes have operated successfully in other large-scale venues across the UK, and by not employing new staff, the venues will save on expenditure,” she said.

Meanwhile, the council has also proposed making savings through its Cardiff County and Vale of Glamorgan Music Service, which provides instrument and vocal tuition to more than 8,000 pupils. The service, charged to schools at an hourly rate, is part-funded by the council, which is proposing to remove its £151,000 subsidy.

To make up for this, it has proposed that the cost of the service to schools increases by 11%, meaning that fees would increase by £30.50 to £34 for maintained schools, and from £33.50 to £37.50 for private schools.

Julia Magill, cabinet member for education and lifelong learning, said: “Some schools do not pass the cost of lessons on to parents, while others subsidise them. Children on bursaries will not have to pay for lessons.”