Westminster Conservatives have refused to rethink plans to scrap the Council’s Arts and Culture budget and have ignored a petition with 901 signatures from local residents and businesses calling on the Council to ‘reject proposals to cut the entire £350,000 a year budget for Arts and Culture over the next two years’. Westminster is the only local authority in the country without a targeted budget for Arts activity.
Arts Council Chair Peter Bazalgette called the decision “highly regrettable given the need for the cultural riches on the doorstep to be available to as wide a group of constituents as possible”.
And Equity General Secretary, Christine Payne, said;
“This is very disappointing news, particularly as Westminster is the centre of the UK’s commercial theatre sector. The positive spill-over effects of public investment in the arts for the commercial creative industries, as documented in recently released Arts Council England research, should motivate Westminster and other councils to maintain and increase their investments, not sever their support the arts and cultural sector.”
In a recent article in the London Evening Standard, the Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, Munira Mirza pointed out that “in London alone, the cultural industries employ nearly 400,000 people and generate £18 billion”. Quoting Winston Churchill she wrote;
“During the war, it was suggested to the Prime Minister that funding should be cut in order to pay for munitions. “Then what are we fighting for?” he replied. Culture has a value far beyond its economic worth. It is about the essence of national and human creativity. It’s about preserving the best part of us”, she wrote.
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said;
“As ever, Westminster Conservatives know the price of everything and the value of nothing. For one of the richest Councils in the country to cut its entire Arts and Culture budget is a national disgrace. Arts and Culture is one of Westminster’s economic drivers and the Council’s decision to cut its entire support to tomorrow’s artists and performers is both short-sighted and damaging to the local economy and Westminster’s artistic community”