Row over Portsmouth ‘save our arts’ petition

GRANTS ROW The Kings Theatre
GRANTS ROW The Kings Theatre

MP pays a visit to lifesaving charity

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A PETITION calling for cultural services grants in the city to be maintained has been criticised.

More than 500 people have signed the petition by the Liberal Democrats asking Portsmouth City Council’s leading Conservatives not to cut grants to cultural organisations such as the Kings Theatre and the Guildhall.

But the conservatives have criticised the move as the Lib Dems reduced spending for cultural services when they were in control. This includes funding for officers and support staff.

Despite cutting funding to the budget, the Lib Dems maintained grants from organisations such as Arts Council England.

Councillor Linda Symes, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport said: ‘The Lib Dems are now pretending to want to protect cultural funding, yet in the last three years it has fallen by 42 per cent as they cut one grant after another. Their attitude to opposition is galling.’

Deputy council leader, councillor Luke Stubbs said: ‘It makes you wonder whether they even bothered to read the budget they passed last year.

‘Buried in it was a further 13 per cent cut in funding to cultural bodies that starts in 2015, yet now they have the cheek to campaign against it even though they are the ones who have already taken the money out and spent it.’

But councillor Lee Hunt, opposition spokesman for culture, leisure and sport, said: ‘Arts Council England is very important.

‘They have a strategic overview of arts and culture across England.

‘We maintained the grants last year. We didn’t cut them.

‘Maintaining these grants is very important to send the right message to these sorts of people who would be willing to invest in our city.

‘This is a choice the Tories have got to make now. Do they want to support culture services in the city or are they going to cut them?’

Ian Pratt, vice-chairman of The Kings Theatre Trust, said: ‘We get some very valuable funding from the city council which helps us deliver all the wonderful things we deliver at the Kings.

‘That revenue funding is very important in helping us to do that. If we lost some of it we would have to rethink what we are doing and how we are doing it.’