THE amount of time an arts venue was used dipped last year, council documents show.

Vale of White Horse District Council said it wants The Beacon in Wantage to be ‘at the heart of the community’.

It is used for its council meetings and has also played host to former England football Ray Parlour and MasterChef host Gregg Wallace. Controversial comedian Seann Walsh will perform next month.

But in figures that were shown to the council’s scrutiny committee last week, the number of hours it was used fell from 6,270 in 2016/17 to 5,082 in 2017/18.

The council said another ‘key metric to measure The Beacon’s performance’ was the average cost per occupied hour.

That increased to £47.29 per hour, from £39.11 per hour the year before.

The authority’s managers said King Alfred’s Academy, based in the town, choosing to build its own school hall was one factor. That means it does not need to use The Ridgeway, its main auditorium.

It said a pricing policy had also meant some groups using the venue fell away.

A report states: “Setting all tariffs at the same rate for all existing and potential hirers has resulted in the loss of some business and some classes cancelled or did not rebook due to low attendance.

“However, we feel that now the room tariffs are fair and equitable for all this loss has now plateaued.”

The Beacon spent £31,068 more than its allocated budget from the council and also failed to achieve its income target for the second year in a row.

Managers said that was despite income generated increasing from previous years.

But it said other factors, including food and drink stock prices increases, had not helped it improve its financial position.

Despite that, managers said increased popularity on social media and other offers meant it was working well otherwise. Papers state a trip to a monthly cinema screening costs £16 for a family of four, compared to about £40 at a multiplex.