Reversal on arts cuts would hit vulnerable
Reversing cuts to arts funding would mean the most vulnerable in Bath and North East Somerset would pay the price, the council leader said. In response to a Halloweenthemed protest outside the Guildhall and passionate pleas from artists, Councillor Tim Warren said there is only so much money in the pot - and 80 per cent of it is spent on social care. Bath and North East Somerset Council’s arts development service is set to close completely in February but opponents say it plays a vital preventative role that can pay dividends. Theatre Bath director Luke John Emmett, who organised the 60-strong protest, told the cabinet: “If you allow these cuts to go ahead, the detrimental impact of them will be felt across the city for generations to come. “You will irreparably damage people’s livelihoods and negatively impact tourism, particularly longstay tourism in the city and there- fore the city’s economy. These cuts are the final nail in the coffin for arts and culture in Bath. This administration will be remembered for silencing the arts in Bath and destroying a once vibrant city.” He claimed that for every £1 invested in the arts, £2 to £7 comes in, and asked what assessments had been done on the impact the cut would have on vulnerable groups, particularly young people. Artists have praised the arts development service for brokering relationships, helping them secure vital funding and developing a thriving cultural scene in Bath since it formed in 1996. It is one of several departments that will either be significantly reduced or cease completely in the next two years because of “exceptional” pressures on B&NES Council’s budget. Tamsin Egan, who was among the protesters, said: “We’re the fifth richest country in the world. We should be able to fund the arts. I want the arts to be there for my family and the community to enjoy.” Speaking during the meeting, Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Dine Romero branded the cut shortsighted and said the area’s creative industries would undoubtedly suffer. B&NES Council will need to save another £50million over the next five years. Cllr Warren said: “We have to make difficult decisions. Would I like to put more money into the arts? Of course. “We have to look after the most vulnerable people. To put more money into the arts we would have to take money out of people’s care packages - I won’t do that. “It used to be that 66 per cent of our budget was spent on children and adult social care. Now it’s 80 per cent.” Cllr Warren said the council was lobbying Government for more powers to raise money - by introducing a levy on tourists that would be added to hotel bills, and charging for listed building planning applications, which said make up 30 per cent of the caseload. He said if families were put in all of the homes occupied by students the council would get £5million more a year in council tax. A proposal to lobby Government to help the authority become selfsufficient will come before the full council meeting on November 8.
A Halloween-themed protest outside Bath Guildhall against arts cuts