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Tom Watson begins shadow culture role with review of austerity impact

Tom Watson. Photo: Twocoms/Shutterstock
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Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson has unveiled plans to examine the impact of austerity on the arts in Britain, in one of his first moves since being appointed.

The deputy Labour leader took up the mantle of shadow culture secretary earlier this month following a reshuffle, and has now said he will lead a group that will scrutinise how cuts to councils are affecting communities.

Speaking to independent site Labour List, Watson said his aim was to produce a series of recommendations around how devolution could be better used to benefit communities across the UK with regards to arts, culture and sport.

“Local government funds and supports the majority of this country’s cultural attractions, tourist destinations and sporting events. The Tories say they support localism and want to give people more say in their own communities, but they are subjecting local councils to billions of pounds worth of budget cuts,” Watson said.

“When it’s done well and driven by successful local partnerships, the arts, culture and sport can be a huge economic fillip. Our councils have shown time and time again that they can stage world-class events; showcasing our talent, creating jobs and boosting local economies,” he added.

The initiative will be called Communities for Culture, and Watson will lead it alongside Durham County Council’s Simon Henig, who is also vice chair on culture, tourism and sport for the Local Government Association. The group will also comprise two leaders chosen from the arts and culture and sports sectors, who are yet to be appointed.

There are also plans for the project to investigate the impact of Brexit on the arts at a local level.

The first meeting of Communities for Culture will be held on November 30.

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