North East arts groups face double round of cuts

THE region’s arts and heritage groups are facing a double whammy of spending cuts which could be disastrous for their future, MPs will warn today.

THE region’s arts and heritage groups are facing a double whammy of spending cuts which could be disastrous for their future, MPs will warn today.

The Culture Select Committee fears that many North East organisations could fold as swift and drastic cuts are brought to bear by both central Government and local authorities.

Smaller groups and those located outside bigger urban areas are vulnerable, particularly as many of the funding reductions are being implemented quickly, the committee says.

The report comes as the Arts Council prepares to announce that it can only support around half of the organisations that need its help.

The report says: “Across the board, we acknowledge the concerns of arts organisations about the reduction in arts spending by local authorities, in combination with spending cuts from the Arts Council and we note that the impact of this ‘double whammy’ could be disastrous for some arts bodies.”

The committee also stress the importance of preserving the region’s heritage, as “once lost, it is gone forever”.

MP for Newcastle North Catherine McKinnell said: “Our regional theatre and arts heritage are facing an uncertain future.

“This is very worrying as the growth of the cultural and creative sector is one of the areas which has contributed greatly to the renaissance of the North East in the last decade or so.

“Massive reductions in Arts Council funding, on top of the swingeing cuts to local authority grants imposed by the Tory-led coalition, will have a big impact on arts facilities across the North East, including Northern Stage and the Live Theatre in Newcastle.

“Equally concerning is the way in which the coalition has gone about axing arts organisations without consultation, or proper consideration for the impact it will have.

“This includes the Public Lending Right Office, based down in Stockton, with the select committee going so far as to state that they could find nobody who supports the Government’s decision to abolish this organisation.

“I believe this report throws into question the coalition’s entire policy-making process, where decisions seem to be made on the hoof, without any thought for the long-term consequences for either the people involved in these organisations or the important work they do.”

The committee report took evidence from a number of North East organisations including Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, North East England Renaissance Board, Newcastle City Council, the Northern Rock Foundation and The Sage Gateshead.

The report says: “We are disturbed at reports of the number of local authorities already coming forward with substantial cuts.

“The speed, too, with which measures are being implemented makes it very difficult for smaller projects to look at other options, and it is of great concern that so many of these could be lost.”

It was also revealed 50% had been slashed from Arts Council administration costs and a further 50% would be “hard to achieve” as no other organisation is in place to pick up its workload.

Committee members from the cross-party group will urge the Government to reduce the VAT on historic building repairs to ease the burden on English Heritage.

They also praise the soon-to-be-axed regional development agency One North East for supporting a Journal and National Trust campaign to buy Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland.

The report called for the industries to look to the private sector for aid but admitted there was not a philanthropic culture in the UK.


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