Community Groups Angry About Council's Plans To Slash Arts Budget
COMMUNITY groups have hit out at proposals put forward by East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC) that could see their budgets slashed. Under proposals set to go before councillors today (Thursday), several community groups, including arts group ADeC
COMMUNITY groups have hit out at proposals put forward by East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC) that could see their budgets slashed.
Under proposals set to go before councillors today (Thursday), several community groups, including arts group ADeC and Ely in Bloom, will see their funding cut drastically in order to help ECDC cover its �1.6 million budget deficit.
The leader of the district council, Fred Brown, described the package of spending cuts as "painful, but unfortunately necessary," but supporters of the groups have reacted angrily calling the proposals "absolute madness".
District councillor Pauline Wilson, said: "Scrapping ADeC will save the taxpayer the equivalent of less than one pence a week. But the damage that will be done to arts provision in East Cambridgeshire will far outweigh the potential savings.
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"This is short sighted and ill-thought out by an administration which has been determined to shut down ADeC over the years."
Director of ADeC, Jane Wilson, meanwhile, acknowledged that cuts in the arts service were inevitable given the ongoing financial situation in the UK but insisted that the council's decision to end their 18-year relationship with ADeC was "not the right way forward for local residents".
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Cllr Brown said that "every area" of the council had been carefully scrutinised to find the �1.6million needed to balance ECDC's budget deficit for 2010/11 but insisted that talks would be ongoing with ADeC in the hope that a compromise could be reached.
Meanwhile, Ely in Bloom founder Sheila Friend-Smith expressed her disappointment at the �2,000 cut in funding for the award-winning community group.
"This competition brings together the whole community - businesses, individuals, schools, organisations and voluntary groups - who take a pride in their city," she said.
"Residents, visitors and tourists alike benefit from this effort and Ely in Bloom has become something of which we are all extremely proud.
"If the money can't come from the grants' pot surely the tourism budget could recognise Ely in Bloom's contribution and provide a similar grant."
The savings proposals will go before councillors on the Community Services Committee today before they are voted on at a full council meeting in late February.
Other areas expected to be hit by cuts include staffing levels at the district council with a number of jobs are expected to go. Remaining staff will see their pay frozen with the council expected to save around �750,000 as a result.
Residents in the district will also feel the pain as they face a projected 2.95 per cent council tax increase, amounting to around a �42 annual increase for Band D properties.
Others areas hit include grant schemes with �20,000 taken from the Community Facilities Grant pot, and �10,000 taken from the district's disability sports project.
Cllr Brown said: "This whole process has been very difficult. We would love to have been all things to all men but we have a duty as a council to deliver our essential core services.
"With the financial situation as it has been worldwide we have had to act now, delaying these choices and waiting for things to get better before we acted was not an option."
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