THE DEFICIT at The Beacon community centre has been labelled a ‘scandal’ after new figures revealed it is losing about £5,000 a week.

The venue has been making hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of losses for years, totalling nearly £250,000 in the last financial year and £1m since 2014/15.

Vale of White Horse District Council absorbs the cost, which is the difference between income and expenditure, each year and insists the money should be called a ‘contribution’ rather than a deficit.

Liberal Democrat town councillor Andrew Crawford asked the Vale’s leader Roger Cox about the deficit in July, but the query was only answered in September.

However, the figures he received have since been updated, to show additional losses of about £35,000 across four years.

Mr Crawford said: "The variety of events makes it all the more shocking that losses of these levels are occurring. About £5,000 a week, every week, every year, is the level of the deficit."

Mr Crawford also requested ‘any documents the council has generated or commissioned’ on the possible financial impact of The Beacon on new community buildings – but received none back.

In its response, the council said: “There are no documents or work commissioned specifically to assess the possible financial impact on The Beacon of the two new community buildings planned for Grove Airfield and Crab Hill.

“However, it is expected that the new community buildings will have limited impact.”

Mr Crawford praised council officers for expanding the centre’s offering and was keen to stress that it is ‘a wonderful local venue for a wide variety of events’ but said this made the figures even more eye-opening.

He said: “When so many other council services are under financial pressure it is little short of a scandal that the council have not only failed to get on top of the problem but seem to have no plans to do so.”

In September, the council responded to Mr Crawford’s question with different figures to ones provided to the Herald this week, despite some of them dating back years.

Two months ago, the council said the deficit in 2016/17 was £216,000 - nearly £30,000 less than the updated figure, of £245,000.

And last year, the deficit was actually £7,000 lower than the council previously thought, coming in at £240,000.

The council said this year’s deficit equated to 46 per cent of the district council element of the council tax bill for Wantage residents – although The Beacon is used by people from across the Vale.

The Beacon is highly valued in the community and is one of the bigger venues of its kind in the area.

Wantage MP Ed Vaizey jumped to its defence, noting: “Sadly it is a fact that buildings such as The Beacon are rarely profitable, they never have been, but the value to the local community is immeasurable.

“I have been so impressed with the turnaround of The Beacon over the past few years and to have more than 150,000 visitors last year is phenomenal. I am aware that the district council has had to invest in this asset for Wantage and they are working hard to bring down costs.

"I would hate to think that the value of this vital hub is just measured commercially.”

A spokesperson for Vale of White Horse District Council added: “We make financial contributions towards the running of a range of valuable community facilities across the Vale, including The Beacon.

“In recent years, The Beacon has made investments to improving the events, services and facilities it offers, which are used by residents right across the district."

The council did not directly answer if there were any notable events or investments that had contributed to the losses, but continued: “It benefits the community on many different levels by providing arts, drama, cultural, health and wellbeing and communal activities at an affordable price and available for everyone - something that would not be available without our contributions. We aim to make the Beacon as cost-effective as possible, but there are always going to be fluctuations in revenue.

“With more people coming to live at Crab Hill and Grove Airfield, The Beacon will provide even better value-for-money for the district’s council taxpayers.”