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Equity: culture secretary must act to prevent ‘new dark age’ for arts in Bath

Karen Bradley. Photo: UK Home Office

Equity has called on culture secretary Karen Bradley to “urgently intervene” following 100% cuts to Bath’s arts grants.

The union said there was a “crisis” in local arts funding that only the government could address.

Bath and North East Somerset Council voted on its budget this week, and approved a 100% cut to its small project grants for the arts [1], which have previously provided companies with up to £5,000 a year. The council is cutting the arts grants to save £433,000 by 2020.

It said it needed to find a total of £49 million of savings, to “balance the budget” over the four years from 2016/17. It blamed this on a reduction in central government funding.

Responding, Equity said the culture secretary needed to take action to address the cuts. It warned that Bristol City Council is also expected to make cuts to its arts budget on February 21.

Equity deputy general secretary Stephen Spence said: “The council has committed an act of cultural vandalism in Bath that will result in a new dark age for arts and culture in the region.”

He added: “Given Bristol is also poised to cut, the culture secretary must urgently intervene and facilitate a settlement to stabilise local arts funding. Equity will be seeking an urgent meeting with Karen Bradley to discuss this. There is now a crisis with local arts funding that only the UK government can resolve.”

Equity members have also appealed to the councils to think again.

Performer Les Dennis said: “I believe that council investment in the arts is vital. The theatre was so important to me growing up. It helped me find my voice and direction in life.”

He added: “Our children should be encouraged to embrace the arts to develop their cultural outlook. If the arts aren’t funded they won’t be able to. We ignore its importance at our peril.”

Responding to the calls made by Equity, a government spokeswoman emphasised that “councils have almost £200 billion to spend on local services over the lifetime of this parliament, including on arts and culture”.

“One of the best investments we can make as a nation is in our arts and museums. That is why the government has protected funding for National Museums to ensure they remain free to enter, and between 2015 and 2018 Arts Council England will invest approximately £1.5 billion of government and National Lottery funding,” she said.

Earlier this month, actors Timothy West and Tony Robinson hit out at the cuts [2], calling them “savage”.