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Issue 347 – Arts funding turned down as revised budget thrown out

SUGGESTIONS for local spending, which were made to Mendip District Council for their budget for the coming year, were voted down by the Conservative majority in Shepton Mallet on Wednesday 15th of February.

The Liberal Democrats called for work with local businesses to create apprenticeships, as well as reintroducing an amount of funding for the arts, but they say these proposals were all brushed aside by the Conservative administration in what became a very heated meeting.
The proposals were presented by Frome councillor Richard Pinnock. They included measures to tackle youth unemployment and rural isolation as well as a scheme involving renewable energies to help the authority become more financially sustainable. Cllr Pinnock also called on the administration to go further and have more vision in tackling rural isolation.
He said, “The problem with the Conservatives’ budget put forward this year, was that it just didn’t go far enough. Mendip needs to work creatively to really make a difference – even in times of economic hardship.”
The Liberal Democrats also called on the council to reintroduce arts funding which was cut by 100%. Cllr Adam Boyden commented, “Before the election, Mendip’s Conservatives promised to support our local theatres and arts venues. Upon being elected, they’ve gone back on this promise.” The Liberal Democrat amendments proposed reinstating the £50,000 in arts spending removed by Mendip.
Cllr Clarie Hudson commented, “It wouldn’t make any difference if we put forward a budget exactly the same as the Conservatives, they’d still vote it down, because they can’t bring themselves to work with us – even in the interest of the district.
“Our amendments were entirely constructive, and were based on concerns we’ve heard from residents – it’s sad that the Tories clearly didn’t see it that way.”
However, deputy leader of Mendip District Council, cllr Tom Killen commented, “We are committed to business development and have proposed a range of measures to help our young people and businesses.
“We want to establish a one-stop business support service. We not only want our young people to find work, but we also want to help them establish their own businesses. We are engaged with the business community and want to ensure that our policies address their needs. We actually want to employ more apprentices than the Lib Dems are proposing.
“Support for the arts was the only true budget amendment put forward by the Liberal Democrat group but as cllr Steven Priscott, portfolio holder for finance, said ‘no thought had been given by cllr Pinnock and his colleagues to where the money would come from. The suggested support would have led to an increase in Council Tax of 1% in these difficult times, or further cuts in other services’. Conservative councillors commented that they had received no public pressure to reinstate this funding.”