Victory in Windsor and Maidenhead: Council drops plan to abolish arts funding after opposition from PCA

  • 100% cut to arts funding becomes 17% increase after grassroots campaign involving thousands of local people
  • Maidenhead MP and former Prime Minister Theresa May: “I am incredibly pleased to see this news … I pay tribute to everyone involved including the Public Campaign for the Arts and their supporters for their campaigning”
  • 4900+ people back PCA petition and 1000+ people engage with official consultation to urge sustained local investment in art and culture

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has abandoned plans for a 100% cut to arts funding, and instead committed £140,000 to its arts centres for 2022-23 (a 17% increase).

It follows a grassroots campaign which involved thousands of supporters of the Public Campaign for the Arts, and was supported by local MP and former Prime Minister Theresa May, as well as artists including Russell Brand, Mark Watson, Rachel Parris, Stephen K Amos and Alfie Moore.


Theresa May, MP for Maidenhead since 1997 and former UK Prime Minister, said:

“It is extremely welcome that the RBWM have listened to the strength of local feeling – agreeing to re-instate a grant to Norden Farm this year. I pay tribute to everyone involved including the Public Campaign for the Arts and their supporters for their campaigning. 5000 of the Public Campaign for the Arts supporters petitioned the council in support of Norden Farm. I know this will have made a difference. I also want to thank my constituents who have taken the time to contact me to show their support. Over the last few weeks I have been working closely with the Public Campaign for the Arts and the Norden Farm team to lobby the RBWM to change their decision and I am pleased to see our collective efforts have paid off. The arts play such an important role nationwide, helping to enrich our communities and expand our intellectual horizons. Norden Farm is an invaluable centre for the arts and provides excellent programmes for the entire local community. I am incredibly pleased to see this news which will mean Norden Farm are able to carry on delivering their top quality services that are of immense benefit locally.”

Photo: Raul Mee

The Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead had warned that continued council funding was “absolutely essential to keep the charity going”. Yet until yesterday’s change of policy, Council Leader Andrew Johnson said “it was made clear that last year the venue would receive a reduced grant and in 2022/23 grant funding would cease”.

Across England, local authority spending on cultural services has fallen from £118.93 per person in 2009-10 to £59.90 in 2020-21 – a cut of 50%. As councils across the country finalise their budgets for 2022-23, concern is growing about the risks of further cuts to a sector which has been one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 18 January, the Public Campaign for the Arts launched a petition to RBWM Council and guidance for residents to engage with the official Budget consultation. 4952 people signed the PCA petition, and 1803 people responded to the council consultation – almost three times as many as the 650 who participated last year. According to RBWM’s Consultation Report, ‘Arts & culture’ was the top investment priority, supported by 1,004 people. ‘Invest in arts & culture’ was the most-mentioned comment or suggestion, cited by 555 people.

Official RBWM graph, from the Budget Consultation Report

Local supporters of the Public Campaign for the Arts directly addressed the RBWM Cabinet meeting on 10 February, urging them to maintain arts funding in Windsor and Maidenhead. After their speeches, the Cabinet approved a £140,000 package for the arts.

Andrew Johnson, Leader of the Council, said:

“It has always been the case that we have been determined to provide support for the arts within RBWM. They are an intrinsic part of the societal fabric of the Royal Borough.

We are very, very pleased to be able to announce a funding support package for 2022/23 of £115,000 for Norden Farm … [that will] enable them to continue to deliver the fantastic programme of performances and indeed community outreach that they have so ably delivered to date.”

Samantha Rayner, Deputy Leader of the Council, said:

“Martin Denny at The Old Court has run a fantastic arts centre during the pandemic, and produced some excellent events and classes. So I’m delighted to say that we will be able to offer £25,000 for Old Court to help them deliver superb and excellent and well-respected art and culture for the residents of the Royal Borough.”

Andrew Johnson announces the change in policy at RBWM Cabinet

Charlotte, local resident for 15 years and petition supporter, said:

“I’d like to strongly urge the Council this evening to make investment in arts and culture across the whole borough a top priority. Speaking out like this in such a formal setting is totally out of my comfort zone, and therefore I hope this really shows what an important issue it is to me.

“Mental health services are seeing their biggest rise in cases, especially among children. Many children across our borough would never have access to the inspiration and new ideas that culture can spark if it weren’t for Norden Farm and The Old Court. Here, different cultures are celebrated, and a huge sense of belonging generated, through the pure joy they bring.

“The value for money, not to mention the value in terms of public satisfaction, sense of belonging and wellbeing, is exceptional. Norden Farm is the reason we love living in Maidenhead. It is for all backgrounds and for all ages.

“These arts and culture venues cannot do this on their own. Yes, they work hard at fundraising. But they couldn’t begin to resource their own fundraising without your critical foundation of support.

“20 years to get Norden Farm open, and 20 years now running. You as our Council have an opportunity to sustain them through these challenging times. Please, please do sustain investment in all arts and cultural venues in our borough – in Norden Farm, Old Court and Windsor Festival, to nurture and inspire our community and the next generation.”

Patricia, local resident for 43 years and petition supporter, said:

I recognise that the Government and local government have a very difficult job in seeking to balance all the basic tenets and requirements of our society and communities but feel strongly that there must somehow be a budget adjustment to take in at least some arts funding.

Arts should be seen as the twin of physical health and exercise facilities. Healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy society. This is vital, not least as our life-spans continue to extend.

“Arts centres, including our two, are part of the building bricks of society. Take them away and the structure is weakened.

“They offer, in warm, friendly environments and for sensible prices, a wonderful range of enjoyment, learning, inter-personal communication, volunteering and have something for all ages and everyone, from tiny children to senior citizens, abled and disabled, disadvantaged, disaffected, from individuals to groups.  They are out-reaching havens.”

Robert, local resident, leader of the Norden Farm community choir and petition supporter, said:

“I run the community choir at Norden Farm. We’ve got about 40 regular members who come in and sing once a week. Through Covid we went round care homes and we sang songs for residents, which was a very beautiful if cold experience as we had to stand in the car parks.

It has to be long term, the way you fund these things. One of the councillors said that the borough has ‘superb and excellent and well respected arts and culture’. Well it’s got to that place, at Norden Farm and other places like it, because there have been sustained grants throughout the years.

When you fund people singing in care homes, or outreach projects for young offenders, there isn’t an obvious way that that money’s going to come straight back … How can we grow the cultural profile and wealth of this borough in the longer term?”


Jack Gamble, Director of the Public Campaign for the Arts, said:

“Yesterday Windsor and Maidenhead’s arts centres were facing a 100% cut – today they’re facing a 17% increase in support from the council. This remarkable turnaround is the result of people joining together to champion the value of art and culture in our lives and communities. Thank you to everybody who has been a part of our campaign, and to the council for listening to residents’ concerns.”


Jane Corry, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Norden Farm in Maidenhead, said:

“We could not be more delighted about the decision last night from RBWM to adopt the recommendations from the report (by consultants Counterculture) for continued funding for the Norden Farm Centre Trust.

“We are so very grateful to our amazing supporters; audiences, volunteers, artists, residents, community groups, politicians and Public Campaign for the Arts, for showing such love and determination to get sustained arts funding returned, and to the Council for showing how much they value the arts.

“The work of Public Campaign for the Arts in challenging the proposed 100% cut in arts funding in RBWM has been incredible. We are all so grateful to them for galvanising such support and raising awareness of the importance of continued arts funding.”


Martin Denny, Director of The Old Court in Windsor, said:

“It’s 75% of what we had last year, so a big improvement on the previously proposed outcome. Most significantly it shows that RBWM have understood the importance of the arts to the local population, and have changed their mind because of that. We’re hugely grateful for all the support we have received from so many quarters.”


Adam Afriyie, MP for Windsor since 2005, said:

“I am delighted that our hard working local councillors were able to make the savings needed to secure new funding for arts. The Old Court is a fantastic asset to locals and visitors alike.”


Cllr Andrew Johnson, Leader of RBWM Council, said:

“Taking on board the community’s strength of feeling around arts funding, as well as the findings of our own consultant’s report and our constructive discussions with both organisations, we amended the proposed budget to maintain a council-funded public subsidy for arts in 2022/23.

Such public feedback is critical because while the Royal Borough overall is an affluent area, we have among the very lowest Council Tax in England outside of London, which places financial pressure on budgets, especially with respect to areas of discretionary, non-statutory spend.”

ENDS.


Notes for Editors

Public Campaign for the Arts analysis of official statistics, full dataset

LOCAL AUTHORITY EXPENDITURE ON CULTURAL AND RELATED SERVICES
Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead

YearExpenditure (original)Expenditure (adjusted for inflation)PopulationAdjusted expenditure per person
2009-10£14,885,000£18,763,699142424£131.75
2010-11£13,609,000£16,873,815143988£117.19
2011-12£12,963,000£15,833,670145098£109.12
2012-13£13,159,000£15,755,382145742£108.10
2013-14£13,279,000£15,543,035146278£106.26
2014-15£11,610,000£13,434,698147476£91.10
2015-16£7,575,000£8,711,490148277£58.75
2016-17£7,231,000£8,133,967149689£54.34
2017-18£6,933,000£7,666,724150140£51.06
2018-19£8,054,000£8,735,858150906£57.89
2019-20£8,155,000£8,643,253151422£57.08
2020-21£6,266,000£6,266,000151273£41.42

England

YearExpenditure (original)Expenditure (adjusted for inflation)PopulationAdjusted expenditure per person
2009-10£4,924,393,000£6,207,579,95652196381£118.93
2010-11£4,718,200,000£5,850,101,79052642452£111.13
2011-12£4,423,807,000£5,403,463,57553107169£101.75
2012-13£4,238,563,000£5,074,867,43953493729£94.87
2013-14£4,103,726,000£4,803,400,63753865817£89.17
2014-15£3,968,335,000£4,592,022,60454316618£84.54
2015-16£3,762,605,000£4,327,115,11454786327£78.98
2016-17£3,585,855,000£4,033,636,78755268067£72.98
2017-18£3,546,463,000£3,921,787,42455619430£70.51
2018-19£3,568,979,000£3,871,131,58955977178£69.16
2019-20£3,592,109,000£3,807,174,48356286961£67.64
2020-21£3,387,090,000£3,387,090,00056550138£59.90

Data sources

Expenditure: DLUHC, Local authority revenue expenditure and financing, RO5, category 190 (TOTAL CULTURAL AND RELATED SERVICES).

Adjustment for inflation: HM Treasury, GDP deflation figures, reference year 2021.

Population: NOMIS, Population Estimates.


About the Public Campaign for the Arts

The Public Campaign for the Arts is a nationwide, people-powered campaign to champion the value of art, culture and creativity. Over 230,000 supporters have joined from every one of the UK’s 650 Parliamentary constituencies. When the Covid-19 pandemic threatened the survival of the cultural sector, more than 150,000 PCA supporters urged the Government to introduce the £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund. Their role was featured in Alan Yentob’s BBC One documentary, imagine…we’ll be back. In March 2021 the PCA’s first local campaign prevented a 37% cut to arts organisations in Nottingham. In May and June 2021, over 165,000 people signed the PCA’s petition against cuts to arts subjects at higher education level in England. The PCA Arts Map, an online platform which enables anyone to find and support arts companies near them, has created an unprecedented support link between UK citizens and their cultural organisations.

www.campaignforthearts.org


Click here to access press images to accompany this story.

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