Arts on hit-list as cuts draw near

The Dukes Theatre, Lancaster
The Dukes Theatre, Lancaster

The Dukes, Litfest, Ludus Dance and the Lancaster Fireworks Spectacular are all in the firing line as the council gears up for cuts to arts and tourism.

City arts organisations could suffer grant reductions or even complete withdrawal of their funds.

Council-run events including the Morecambe Sandcastle Festival are also under threat.

But the leader of the council said that “nothing drastic” will happen this year although 2015 could be bleak”.

Lancaster City Council is due to hand out £191,000 in grants to the arts in 2014/15, including £148,000 to The Dukes, £22,500 to Ludus, £10,800 to Morecambe Music Residency and £9,700 to Litfest.

All are under review.

A council report says “removing or even reducing funding would have other effects such as prejudicing Arts Council funding and could, in a number of cases, result in the close down of some of those arts organisations.”

Council-run/funded festivals and events such as Light Up Lancaster, the Morecambe Sandcastle Festival and a programme of brass bands in Happy Mount Park, Morecambe, are also being looked at.

The council is committed to running the 2014 Light Up Lancaster, including the annual Fireworks Spectacular. But this, as well as funds to the Morecambe kite festival and a programme of brass bands in Happy Mount Park, Morecambe, could cease after this year.

The Morecambe Sandcastle Festival is also on the hit-list.

A plan to move a customer service centre from Morecambe Town Hall into The Platform is also being considered. The Morecambe entertainments venue is expected to run at a £91,600 loss this year.

Opening hours could also be cut at Lancaster and Morecambe Visitor Information Centres (VICs). The council is also considering letting out space at the Lancaster VIC at The Storey.

The council’s communications and marketing department could also be affected.

Cuts to these services would lead to job losses within the council and Trade Unions have been informed.

A council report says the tourist (visitor) economy brings in more than £300m to the district each year, as well as 6m visitors and supports more than 5,000 jobs.

But the council needs to slash £2.3m from its budget by the end of 2015, blaming a reduction in Government funding for its precarious financial position.

No firm decisions on cuts have yet been made. The council Cabinet will meet to discuss the possible options on January 21 at Morecambe Town Hall.

Council officers will then be asked to draw up specific proposals for further talks at a later date.

Council fees and charges are also set to rise. Replacement recycling bins could cost householders £18 in future and replacement boxes £4.80.

Charges will also rise at Salt Ayre sports centre, Hornby, Carnforth and Heysham swimming pools, and Williamson Park. A 5% rise in pest control fees is also being mooted, as well as a rise in short and long stay council car park fees.