Culture trust Vivacity ‘disappointed’ as cuts are voted through

Peterborough Central Library, Broadway, Peterborough. Photo: Rowland Hobson/Peterborough Telegraph

Peterborough Central Library, Broadway, Peterborough. Photo: Rowland Hobson/Peterborough Telegraph

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The trust which runs culture, leisure, libraries and sport services in Peterborough has expressed disappointment as cuts to it budget were confirmed, and warned there is no quick fix to bringing in outsde funding.

Vivacity chief executive Kevin Tighe has re-iterated feelings expressed in January when it was revealed that the trust was set to lose £750,000 a year as part of Peterborough City Council cuts to its budget.

This figure has been softened after the amount of money the council is taking out of libraries was reduced by £45,000.

However, with the 2015-16 budget voted through by councillors last Wednesday (March 4) Vivacity is being asked by the council to find more external funding to run its services.

Mr Tighe previously expressed fears that the ‘heart of the city’ will be threatened by the cut.

Speaking after Wednesday’s meeting he said: “We are disappointed with the decision to make these cuts which will affect the arts, heritage and culture because we believe they are at the heart of what makes a vibrant, thriving city.

We are disappointed with the decision to make these cuts.

Kevin Tighe

“There’s no doubt that investment into these important areas of work directly supports economic growth, builds strong communities and ensures Peterborough is a place where people want to live, work and visit.”

The cut to Vivacity comes with the council having to save £25 million to balance its budget after its government grant was reduced by £44 million over five years.

Last month, Vivacity announced a three year sponsorship agreement with Perkins Engines Company Limited which will mean the Heritage Festival will continue running for another three years.

Peterborough Museum has also received a funding boost of £152,560 from Arts Council England.

Mr Tighe used both examples as evidence that Vivacity is doing well to bring in investment.

He said: “We understand the difficult position the council is in and we will be positive and pragmatic in finding a way forward for the city.

“As an organisation we have consistently managed to work smarter, do more with less public funding and deliver fantastic opportunities in difficult times.

“We have already reduced reliance on council funding by 60 per cent and, for every £1 of funding from Peterborough City Council, we have generated a further £3 income ourselves.

“The recent announcements about Perkins’ support of the Heritage Festival and further investment into the city from the Arts Council are fantastic examples of this.

“It is important to recognise that this kind of investment takes time and expertise to secure and certainly isn’t a quick fix.”

The council is saving just over £300,000 a year by changes to the way library services are run.

The new model for libraries being proposed by the council would see self-service technology introduced but staff hours reduced.

All 10 libraries would remain open, though.

The new model is currently being consulted on by the council.

Mr Tighe added: “As we approach five years of championing libraries, arts, heritage, culture and sport we are really proud of the progress that’s been made.

“We remain committed to delivering even more improvement in the future and will work in collaboration with Peterborough City Council to achieve this.

“We’d like to thank everyone that took the time to respond to the council’s consultation.

“The libraries consultation remains open until March 20 and we’d encourage people to have their say.”

The council has also agreed a new culture strategy to run from 2015 to 2020.

The strategy’s aims are to: increase participation and enjoyment of activities, celebrate diversity, attract talent and develop and promote it, and make the best use of places and spaces for culture.

The strategy was debated by councillors at the Wednesday meeting before being approved.

The strategy received support from Councillors Darren Fower and David Harrington, with Cllr Fower hoping for more events put on outside the city centre.

However, Cllr John Shearman said: “I’m somewhat disappointed by this. I believe it lacks long-term ambition and boldness.”

Cllr Shearman and Cllr Ed Murphy both highlighted the money Vivacity has brought into the city.

Cllr Murphy added: “This strategy is very low in aspiration.”

Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, part of the council’s cabinet, said: “Criticism is unjust. We are doing our best to protect culture in the face of shrinking budgets.

“This is aspirational. It’s up to Vivacity to extract external funding.”