Budget 2015/16: A cultural desert is being forecasted for Peterborough due to a near £1.5 million budget cut to arts and leisure funding.
The chief executive of Vivacity, which runs the the city’s library, culture and sports services, is warning that cuts will be “signficant and far reaching.”
Kevin Tighe confirmed jobs losses at Peterborough’s libraries and indicated the city’s arts and heritage festivals could stop running.
The £1.45 million cut to Vivacity is over three years and was included in the second phase of Peterborough City Council’s 2015-16 budget proposals released on January 9.
The funding hit comes as the council looks to save £25.3 million to balance its budget following a £44 million cut to its government grant.
The budget proposals are up for public consultation from tomorrow until March 2 and will be voted on by full council two days later.
Vivacity, which has made more than £5 million of savings in the past five years, is warning its funding cut will threaten the ‘heart of the city.’
On the Peterborough Arts Festival, which saw 6,000 attend Cathedral Square in one evening, Vivacity says “unless alternative funding can be found the long-term future of this event is gloomy.”
Addressing the Peterborough Heritage Festival it adds: “Without a major sponsor this event, which attracts 30,000 people annually, would not go ahead.”
Prices at the Lido swimming pools would be forced up and exhibitions at the city gallery such as a planned Andy Warhol one would not be possible, it is also claimed.
Children’s half-term events at Peterborough Museum could also be limited and some future projects such as the partnership with the Natural History Museum might not be possible.
Mr Tighe is urging people to respond to the council’s budget consultation.
He said: “There is no doubt that the impact of these cuts will be significant and far reaching. However well a business is managed you can’t reduce funding by £1.45 million and expect there to be no change to frontline services and frontline staff.
“When we took on the contract to deliver libraries, culture and sport in Peterborough we knew that over time funding from the council would reduce and we planned accordingly.
“But the proposed cuts are more significant than anyone could have anticipated – a 50 per cent reduction over the next three years.
“Hard won improvements are at risk. There will be big changes across the city in libraries, some half-term events and early years provision will disappear, and whilst the doors at the museum will continue to open, the quality and range of what’s available will suffer.”
But Cllr Lucia Serluca, cabinet member for city centre management, culture and tourism, said this was the first time she had heard of Vivacity’s concerns.
She added: “We have worked closely with Vivacity officers during the past year to develop the future operating model for libraries, so we are surprised and somewhat disappointed at the comments that have been made.
“The impact on services that they are reporting has not been shared with us in any way whatsoever and we will be talking to them about this.”
Council leader Marco Cereste wrote in his Peterborough Telegraph column in April 2014 that: “Our ongoing support of the culture trust Vivacity is a key part of plans to ensure our city continues to go from strength to strength.”
Iain Crighton, chairman of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, said: “If you have a city with no culture you will find it’s more difficult to encourage good businesses to come.
“A sizeable cut will have consequences. I am sure Vivacity will look at other ways of delivering the services but it will be difficult. I’m not sure businesses would leave but it could be a contributory factor.”
Residents can fill in a consultation on the budget on the council’s website, at all libraries and in Town Hall and Bayard Place receptions.
Vivacity is an independent trust which in 2010 Peterborough City Council transferred the city’s library, cultural and sports services to.
Services: Vivacity runs Peterborough Museum, the Key Theatre, Peterborough Arts Festival, Peterborough Heritage Festival, the Lido and Peterborough’s 10 libraries.
Successes: The trust has highlighted several of its successes since taking over the services.
It says: Tickets bought for the Key Theatre have increased by 20 per cent with 65,000 people through the doors last year. Visitors to the Heritage Festival are up by 50 per cent to 30,000.
The Vivacity Premier Fitness gym and pool set an industry record with 1,800 members joining in a single month.
Over 14,000 visited the museum in the first month following its refurbishment.