Re­ver­sal on arts cuts would hit vul­ner­a­ble

Bath Chronicle - - NEWS - Stephen Sum­ner Lo­cal democ­racy re­porter @stephen­sum­ner15 | 07741 295876 stephen.sum­ner@reach­plc.com

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

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