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Cut arts funding? That will hit working class
6:00am Monday 9th December 2013 in News
ARTS funding in Colchester should be protected for the benefit of all, a Tory councillor has claimed.
Dennis Willetts has called for Colchester Council’s spending on the MercuryTheatre and arts centre to be protected from cuts.
Budget proposals from the administration propose a 10 per cent cut in the theatre’s funding, plus a 5 per cent drop for the Arts Centre and the Firstsite grant slashed by 15 per cent over two years.
But initial plans put forward by Mr Willetts, Conservative group spokesman for finance, were derided as “Willetts’ World” by cabinet councillors in a reference to the cult 1992 film Wayne’s World.
Mr Willetts said: “I am a fan of the arts – I like rockmusic and am a bass player. The arts are important for everybody, not just for an exclusive elite.
“I would hope youwill reconsider this because what we don’t want to see is the Mercury Theatre being visited less and the arts centre scraping by.
“We don’t want to see the average working-class person like myself, on a pension, not be able to afford to go to some of these magnificent centres, while the venues are filled with people in dinner jackets.”
The comments came during Colchester Council’s latest cabinet meeting.
He also attacked plans to cut funding to Age UK Colchester and described the overall proposals as “pessimistic scaremongering”.
However, Lib Dem Paul Smith, who is responsible for finance at the council, said the plan stopped the authority facing a situation of having to announce even more cuts if the Government grant was cut by more than expected.
“This is Willetts’ World economics and not how to run the council,” he said.
The final budget proposals are set to be reviewed by a scrutiny committee in January before being debated by full council in February.
Mr Willetts said a full alternative budget from the Conservative opposition would be released later this month.
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