Funding cut re-think for Huntingdon arts

COMMUNITY leaders have agreed to look again at the future of arts and entertainment at the Commemoration Hall in Huntingdon following protests over proposed funding cuts.

Six Huntingdon town councillors - Deborah Scales, John Morgan, Trish Shrapnel, Alan Mackender-Lawrence, Chris Osborn and Kevin Sumner - have signed a motion calling for the decision to withdraw funding for the artistic programme at the hall to be rescinded.

It was proposed in November to drop the council’s current �21,000-a-year support for the programme, which is used to fund the post of programme director Lydia Eldridge.

Instead councillors resolved to ask for the Commemoration Hall Charity to take on responsibility for funding the post. The decision was approved by the finance committee and ratified by full council in January.

But last month Cllr Morgan, who is a hall trustee, revealed the charity was forbidden from funding or applying for funding for events or shows because of its constitution.

In a statement the councillors calling for the recission wrote: “We believe the decision was made without a full and proper debate which took all relevant factors in account. Further, the decision was clouded by confusion after councillors had been presented with information (from another member) that was not wholly accurate.”

Councillors may call tonight for some of a reserve of �80,000 set to come from next year’s town council precept to be used to fund the artistic programme, though as other services are also facing cuts, the proposal could face opposition.

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Tony Rawson, manager of Simply Music in Huntingdon, welcomed news the decision would be looked at again.

A guitarist with Soul Patrol he has set up a petition appealing for Ms Eldridge’s post to be retained.

He said: “Lydia was so great at helping promote our event at the Commemoration Hall last month. It will be such a shame if Lydia is not there as support. She puts in so much effort for her 15 hours a week and she does a lot more outside that.

“It is short-sighted of the council. Perhaps people from the council do not use the venue themselves. It is important for people locally to support music.”