Manchester City Council on brink of £326,000 culture funding cuts

Natalie Woolman
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Manchester City Council is on the verge of cutting its culture budget by £326,000 over the next two years.

The local authority also plans to adopt a “more rigorous approach” to funding arts organisations. Theatres and other cultural institutions will now have to prove that they are delivering the council’s priorities in order to secure funding.

Budget proposals outline £326,000 of savings in cultural services, up from the £111,000 of cuts originally planned. The further proposed savings include a reduction in staff and a cut to the local authority’s cultural investments. The budget document says that the “impact on employment in funded organisations [is] not yet known”.

However, a council spokesman said it is “unlikely that any cultural organisations will close as a result of the MCC savings”. He added that in future, cultural organisations will need “to demonstrate that they are effective in delivering the council’s priorities”.

The spokesman said that the proposals, which will be considered by the council executive this week, represent between a 5% and 15% cut of 2010/11 levels applied over two to three years. The final budget will be decided at a full council meeting on March 9.

He added: “MCC recognises the important contribution that culture makes to economic growth and to the competitiveness of the city region. It also recognises the opportunities that culture brings for residents, which impact on a wide range of agendas, particularly the individual self-esteem and sense of community.

“It has therefore strived to maintain a level of investment which ensures the sustainability of cultural activities while recognising that economies have to be made and savings found.”

In addition to the savings, the proposals also outline plans to move cultural services from the chief executive’s directorate to within the neighbourhood services department. MCC said the move would provide more coherence between culture and other services, including sport and libraries.

MCC also pledged its support for Library Theatre’s £19 million new home, which it plans to share with contemporary art and film organisation Cornerhouse.

The new building, which will include a 500-seat theatre and studio, will largely be funded through £16 million already earmarked for the theatre company’s relocation.

Speaking to The Stage, MCC reasserted its support for this capital project. A spokesman said: “The council is very much committed to these and capital provision had already been made from the town hall transformation project as the Library Theatre was previously housed within the town hall complex.”

Architects are expected to be appointed for the new site this year and the space is due to open in 2014.

For more updates on this story, visit www.thestage.co.uk/news

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