Funding cuts loom over Newbury’s Corn Exchange and Watermill Theatre

Newbury's Watermill Theatre, which has made the shortlist for most welcoming theatre at this year's UK Theatre Awards
by -

Newbury’s Corn Exchange and Watermill Theatre are facing cuts totaling £180,000 to their funding, under proposals being considered by the local council.

The Corn Exchange is facing the greater reduction, with West Berkshire Council proposing to cut its current annual funding of £378,000 by £170,000 over the next two years. The Watermill Theatre is faced with a £10,000 reduction to its annual £42,000 council contribution.

West Berkshire Council claims the cuts – which are now being consulted on –  are necessary in order to find savings of £11 million over the next two years. It said it is dealing with reductions to its central government funding and the increased costs of providing services.

Corn Exchange director Katy Griffiths acknowledged that the venue needed to “share in the funding cuts in these difficult times”. But she warned that the venue – which programmes music, comedy, film and theatre – will have its “ability to deliver for the arts locally” put at risk if the cuts go ahead.

“The Corn Exchange Trust provides a wealth of cultural opportunities for West Berkshire residents, and last year over 180,000 people came to our performances and events,” she said.

She added: “During the consultation period we will be making sure that decision makers at the council understand the far-reaching and unintended consequences that a cut this substantial would have for the local community.”

A spokeswoman for the Watermill said the theatre did not want to comment on the proposal to cut its funding by £10,000.

Assessing the impact of the cuts, the council said both venues might have to “look for alternative funding, or provide a more tailored programme”.

It added: “This may lead to fewer people using the venues which may, in turn, impact on the local economy.”

However, it added: “Because of the council’s financial position, it has not been possible to identify other appropriate sources of council funding.”

The consultation on the proposals runs until December. The final budget will be decided in February next year.