The Regional Agency is no longer operating due to insolvency; its finance manager has been arrested on suspicion of theft.

Screen East, the regional screen agency for the east of England, is no longer operating following insolvency, and the arrest of its finance manager, Melvin Welton, on suspicion of theft, it has been confirmed today.

Laurie Hayward, chief executive of Screen East told Screen that: “The directors of Screen East have concluded that the company is insolvent and can’t meet its debts as they fall due. The directors have taken advice and are appointing an insolvency practitioner to take the company into administration. An announcement will be made on friday with the details of the insolvency practitioner.”

He also said that “the Norfolk Constabulary are investigating some financial irregularities at Screen East. A man has been arrested in connection with the enquries. We cannot comment until the investigation is complete.”

Hayward described the news as “a great shame”, adding that he was “personally disappointed.”

A spokesperson for Norfolk constabulary said: “Norfolk Constabulary can confirm that a 61-year-old man from Great Yarmouth has been arrested on suspicion of theft and released on bail pending further inquiries.”

Screen East’s remit was to promote the East of England as a location for film and TV production, attracting investment by marketing the locations, skills and expertise in the region.

Productions to have benefitted from the agency’s funding include the 2008 film Dean Spanley starring Peter O’Toole and Sam Neill, which received £2.25m from Screen East’s content investment fund, as well as Stephen Poliakoff’s 2009 film Glorious 39.

The agency had launched a new £4.5m Low Carbon production fund in February, which aimed to cut the carbon footprint of the projects it invested in by 30%. The agency planned to invest in a minimum of 15 projects over the next five years with European Regional Development money and money from the East of England Development Agency.

Local producer Tony Bracewell, whose last two features The Gigolos and Cuckoo received backing from Screen East, told Screen he was “shocked” by the news of the agency’s collapse.

“Our experience was that they were doing the right thing, and it all seemed to us to be a very good example of how regional funding worked. They were doing a lot of good locally, including getting international projects into Leavesden and training bursaries. I think it will have a terrible impact locally”

He added:“I was actually in the process of putting in an application for the Low Carbon Fund for a new comedy feature to be shot in the area.”

Meanwhile, Neil Fox, the film education officer for Luton and Bedfordshire, which comes under Screen East’s jurisdiction, told Screen that he was owed £6K by the agency for the running of local film education initiative FilmeLab. He had been promised the funding in March in a letter from the agency’s CEO Laurie Hayward. Fox previously ran the Luton based film festival Filmstock, which ran for 10 years but closed in November.

With Screen East out of action, Film London has contacted the British Film Commission to say that it is willing to help in any way it can with any inquiries from producers wanting to work in the south-east of England.

Chair of Screen England John Newbigin said at a conference in London that the arrest of Melvin Welton was a “very sad situation”. For legal reasons Newbigin was unable to offer further comment.