Theresa May joins thousands urging Windsor and Maidenhead council to ‘reconsider’ abolition of arts funding

  • 100% cut to arts funding planned in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, one of England’s most affluent local authorities
  • Local MP and former Prime Minister Theresa May reveals she is urging Conservative councillors to “reconsider their position”
  • New PCA analysis of official Government statistics finds local authority funding for cultural services has been cut by 69% in Windsor and Maidenhead, and by 50% across England, since 2009-10
Photo: Raul Mee

Theresa May has spoken out against the decision by Conservative councillors in her own constituency to completely abolish grant funding of the arts.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead’s 2022-23 Budget, which is due to be approved this month, allocates £0 to the arts for the first time in living memory.[1] The local authority is the second most affluent in England.[2]

The Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead, which has already suffered a 45% cut in its council grant in the last year, says maintained funding is “absolutely essential to keep the charity going”.[3] The Council has paid for a private consultant to assess how the arts centre might adjust to having no public funding.

A local petition launched by the Public Campaign for the Arts has been signed by over 4800 people and supported by artists who have performed at Norden Farm 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:

When I have visited Norden Farm I have seen first-hand the excellent programmes Norden Farm delivers and just how valuable their work is for the local community. I understand that the Council’s decision will have caused concern.

Since this announcement I have been speaking with the Council about Norden Farm and I am continuing to urge the Council to reconsider their position – to see whether some support can be given to Norden Farm.

It is my hope that when the consultant’s report is published, Norden Farm and RBWM will be able to work together to find a solution which will be in the best interest of the entire local community.”


Alongside its petition, the Public Campaign for the Arts has published a new analysis of official data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). It reveals that local authority expenditure on all cultural services – including public libraries, entertainment venues, museums, galleries and recreation facilities – has halved across England since 2009-10. In Windsor and Maidenhead the cut has been even deeper: in 2009-10 the council was spending £131.75 per person per year, but by 2020-21 this had fallen by 69% to just £41.42.

The PCA is warning that further cuts will be a hammer blow to local arts services, especially given that the cultural sector has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.[4]


Jane Corry, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead, said:

“We have already made many changes to the organisation to reduce costs and to increase income, it’s very hard to see what else we can do. Core funding from RBWM is absolutely essential to keep the charity going.

Now we are heading out of the worst health crisis in 100 years and looking to the regeneration of Maidenhead, we hope they will see the value Norden Farm brings to the community. We work with every school in Maidenhead making sure our children and young people have access to high quality arts experiences. We fundraise to deliver work for isolated older people, for looked-after children and those in end-of-life care, for children with a range of SEN and disabilities, for families experiencing economic hardship. 

Somewhere like Norden Farm that took years and years of lobbying from local people and politicians to get funded and built does not just reappear overnight once it’s gone. From the dream Maidonians first had, of having their own arts centre to the thriving venue it has become, took 40 years of hard work. To lose that would be too tragic to imagine.”


The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has recently concluded a public consultation on its 2022-23 Budget. Between 25th and 31st January, the Public Campaign for the Arts’ guidance to support responses to the consultation was accessed over 1,700 times.

In response to the PCA campaign, Council Leader Andrew Johnson tweeted that “my cabinet will be presenting its final recommended budget in early Feb after we’ve discussed the consultants report with Norden Farm and the consultation has closed”.[5] Any changes will be recommended on 10th February, ahead of a Full Council meeting on 22nd February.[6]

The Old Court in Windsor, which had its grant cut last year from £74,000 to £37,000, also stands to lose all of its council funding unless changes to the Budget are made.


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

“The arts are not a luxury – they provide vital benefits to our lives and communities. We appreciate the financial pressures that local councils are under, partly due to cuts from national government since 2010, but sacrificing our cultural services is not the answer. We have to find a way to keep funding them alongside other services – it shouldn’t be an either/or.”


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

“We hope that the council will return to funding the two arts centres in the Royal Borough. If funding is unlikely to resume, we will have to consider carefully how we can continue.”


Comedian and writer Rachel Parris (The Mash Report, Live At The Apollo, Mock The Week, QI, Would I Lie To You, Hypothetical) said:

“Norden Farm is a special place that put on my shows back when I was attracting grand audiences of about 35 people just because they liked my work and love the arts.”


Comedian and writer Mark Watson (Live At The Apollo, Mock The Week, Have I Got News For You, Mark Watson Talks A Bit About Life) said:

“If we start de-funding theatres like this, with the community work they do, we might as well just forget the arts”


Comedian and writer Alfie Moore (It’s A Fair Cop, BBC Radio 4) said:

“Wonderful theatres and art centres like Norden Farm in Maidenhead are the beating heart of the local community. I do hope that RBWM decide to keep the funding in place and do everything they can to keep this fabulous venue open – it’s really important.”

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.


[1] RBWM Budget

[2] National Statistics, English indices of deprivation 2019, IMD rank of average rank

[3] Norden Farm, Statement on Funding

[4] OECD

[5] Andrew Johnson @andyj1979, Twitter

[6] Statement from Andrew Johnson on Facebook

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