THE Government is solely to blame for Newcastle's arts cuts, Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said last night.
Ms Harman will be in Durham today but in an interview ahead of her visit she played down any suggestion that her party was damaged by initial plans to cut arts funding by 100% in Newcastle.
The Shadow arts minister was widely believed to have intervened in the cuts last month, pushing for the Labour-controlled city council to save arts funding.
While Newcastle was already in talks to set up the independent fund since announced, Ms Harman’s intervention was seen by many as a sign that the party was suffering nationally as a result of Newcastle’s actions.
In an interview with The Journal, Ms Harman was asked for her views on how she thought the controversial funding proposal had impacted on the party following city leaders elsewhere in the UK insisting they would not “do a Newcastle.”
But she would only praise Newcastle and fire criticism towards Government funding decisions, saying the council was forced into the position it took.
She said: “The arts problem was caused by the Government. They said they want to cut the deficit but they are making local government take the blame with disproportionate cuts.
“I liaise with all councils across the country who are important to the arts. We have a network of these councils because there is so much pressure on the arts.
“And it is clear that the arts outside London are more dependent upon local government, yet this is the sector taking a massive hit.
“The situation in Newcastle is they consulted on their budget and they are determined to do all they can to help people.
“Newcastle is one of the renaissance cities but they need to protect that role against the backdrop of Government cuts and I’m glad Nick Forbes has worked with the Arts Council.”
Mr Forbes, the leader of Newcastle City Council, was placed under the national spotlight when he announced plans to end arts subsidies.
While the cuts would only represent at most 14% of the budget of those venues affected, many felt it would leave the city’s cultural sector in difficulty.
As other councils announced plans to cut but not end arts funding, including a £900,000 arts and leisure cut in Gateshead, Newcastle decided to change its plans.
The city will now hand over £600,000 a year to an independent panel amid hope others will also contribute to the fund.
As part of her visit to Durham, Ms Harman will say the region’s 500,000 older women need to have their rights strengthened, arguing that those over 50 should not feel that their employers want to throw them on the rubbish heap.
Ms Harman said: “Once we had to fight for young women’s rights, for nursery and child care and longer maternity leave, we had to fight for that and now we need to be sticking up for the older generation.”