Yorkshire council fears for reputation as axe falls on arts

John Lewis
John Lewis
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A COUNCIL in Yorkshire planning to axe its arts service - saving just £44,000 a year - has admitted that the knock-on effect could be the loss of future arts grants - and the authority’s reputation.

Rotherham Council, which is seeking to make tens of millions of pounds in budget cuts, will tomorrow discuss proposals to ends its Arts service which consists of two members of staff.

The service supports local community arts projects, helping groups make funding applications, as well as organising arts projects and events.

The arts team also manages a wide range of projects connected to regeneration and has been successful in winning grants for a range of projects.

However, the authority is looking two millions of pounds of cuts and because the arts are not a statutory function they are viewed as being expendable.

Council chiefs are proposing to cease funding the Arts service from March 31.

In a report on the proposal, to be discussed by councillors at a meeting tomorrow, the authority admits that the impact could damage the council’s reputation.

The reports warns of:

* A negative reaction from arts people in the borough, which “may affect the reputation of the council.”

* An adverse reaction from the Arts Council, which may affect future funding.

* A lack of knowledge within the council of funding opportunities for the arts.

* The end of maintenance to existing public artworks, “which could mean that the council is failing in its responsibility.”

* Further budget pressures if the council cannot enable projects to be self-financed.

* A reduction in public access and enjoyment of the arts.

If councillors do decide to end the Arts service, the authority hopes to hand duties and responsibilities to ‘arts communities’ within the borough.

The council believes that ROAR (Rotherham Open Arts Renaissance) - which gets £70,000 a year from external grants - could develop its role further.

“Where possible, we would advocate a handover of relevant information, duties and responsibility to the arts communities within the borough,” the report says.

“Though there will be an increased need for arts groups and practitioners to become self-reliant, there will be continuing opportunities for networks to develop and grow.

“As part of the ongoing consultation with affected staff, options would be explored which could result in the time spent with individual projects becoming ‘self-financing’.”

The cabinet member for culture and tourism, Coun Amy Rushforth, said the council, like many across the country, faced difficult decisions about where to cut spending.

She said that she would be asking some “tough” questions of council officers at the meeting tomorrow to ensure that, if funding is to be cut, the impact on the arts will be kept to a minimum.

The meeting will also discuss a proposed reduction in opening hours at Clifton Park Museum and the possible reduction in opening of the archives and local studies search room at the museum.

Two options have been drawn up, both of which involve closing the museum on Sundays - it is currently open from 1.30pm to 4.30pm. These planned cuts will save around £70,000 a year.

Councillor Rushforth said: “We are looking at times where footfall is slower through the museum.”

She said that the search for budget reductions would continue for some time.

“Next year will get even tougher. Rotherham Borough Council is making massive cuts to the budget and libraries are probably going to be on the table again.”

Arts organisations have yet to make their views known about the proposed axeing of the Arts service, she said.

“At the moment we haven’t had a response. I’m sure there will be.”