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Budget 2016: Osborne announces £20m cultural investment

Architect's impression of the redeveloped Hall for Cornwall Architect's impression of the redeveloped Hall for Cornwall
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Hall for Cornwall and a new Shakespeare theatre in Merseyside are among projects that will share £20 million of cultural investment, chancellor George Osborne has announced.

The Hull UK City of Culture initiative and Hull New Theatre will also benefit from new government funding, in plans set out in the 2016 budget.

In addition, the budget confirmed that the government will abolish class 2 National Insurance Contributions, a move which Equity said would put “excessive financial burdens” on low-paid self-employed performers.

Responding, the union said it would “step up its campaign to reduce the negative impact on performers”.

Osborne committed to investing £5 million in the Shakespeare North project in Knowsley, in which a new 350-seat theatre and education hub will be built on the site of a 16th-century playhouse. The original structure was the first purpose-built theatre outside London and is thought to have played host to the first stagings of several Shakespearean works.

The announcement comes after Knowsley Council agreed last week to put £6 million into the project, which is expected to cost £19 million. The money is subject to planning approval, which will be considered next month.

The new theatre was first mooted several years ago. However, plans were put on hold until 2015 when revised proposals were announced.

Hall for Cornwall, which recently revealed plans for an £18 million redevelopment, will receive £2 million, subject to planning permission. The project will increase the Truro-based organisation’s auditorium by around 300 seats and overhaul its public spaces.

A spokeswoman for Hall for Cornwall said: “We are surprised, yet hugely delighted, to hear the budget news today, which takes us a step further in realising our ambition to be an arts venue serving the whole of Cornwall as a major economic and cultural driver.”

Elsewhere, Osborne announced £5 million towards the refurbishment of Hull New Theatre, which was turned down for the same amount of money by Arts Council England in January.

Hull will also receive £8 million of investment in its UK City of Culture 2017 initiative, which Osborne said would ensure “a lasting cultural legacy” in the city.

Leader of Hull City Council Stephen Brady said the contribution to its City of Culture plans was “most welcome”, adding: “Investment in our cultural assets is a key part of that and I am pleased to hear that some of the funding is to help with the refurbishment of Hull New Theatre, one of our most important venues and a key legacy investment.”

The Hull City of Culture event has already received £1 million from the government, announced in the autumn statement and spending review in November 2015.

In addition to the money announced for theatres, Drapers’ Hall in Coventry will receive £1 million as part of plans to turn the historic building into a multi-purpose music venue.

In 2014, Osborne announced that the government would invest £78 million in the creation of the new Factory Theatre in Manchester.

The Creative Industries Federation has also warned that local authorities will suffer by depriving them of business rate revenues, which small businesses will not have to pay.

CIF chief executive John Kampfner said: “We welcome the fiscal measures to encourage entrepreneurship and innovative small businesses in our sector and the wider support for culture including measures that should help museums and galleries around the country.

“But we are extremely concerned that local authorities will be hit by another major cut to their budgets when local arts provision is already under pressure.”

It comes after the 2015 spending review announced that grants to local government will be cut by around £6 billion by 2019/2020.

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