Coalition leaders accused of staging culture windfall cash grab to appease Tory MPs.

The Tory-led Coalition dealt yet another blow to communities this week, as it voted down a motion to share culture funding across the county.

A motion proposed to Full Council by Cllr Alison Batey, Labour Shadow Cabinet Member for Culture, Tourism, Media and Sport called for £125,000 – secured when the county was named runner-up in the bid to host City of Culture 2025 – to be topped up by £15,000 and shared equally to each of the 14 Area Action Partnerships.

It failed by just three votes, with several Independent councillors breaking ranks to vote with Labour.

Cllr Batey said:

“This ‘cultural fund’ could have benefited all residents in the county and not just a few who are able to travel or can afford cultural events and venues, ensuring no one is disadvantaged by where they live.”

The coalition argued that the money was not its to spend, as it was partnership money, something which had been accounted for in the motion, altered and agreed by the Council legal team prior to the meeting to include “subject to the grant conditions confirming this is an appropriate use of the £125,000 awarded”.

Cllr Batey added:

“Our communities are diverse and rich in various types of culture, arts and heritage so it seems appropriate to share this award across them all fairly, as that is very much the ethos in which the bid had been promoted.

“To balance an offer to all reaches of our county would demonstrate a holistic and encompassing acknowledgement to residents and communities and demonstrate the wider impact culture has on jobs and economic benefits, especially as we are in the throes of a cost of living crisis and it is only right that deprived communities benefit from this too.”

Seconding the motion, Cllr Angela Surtees Shadow Cabinet Member for Communities and Inclusion challenged a demand from Tory MPs to spend the money on “reopening the DLI Museum”, saying:

“This does not deliver a countywide approach to culture, instead it follows the Coalition’s often repeated line to repurpose the DLI into a high-end eatery with a gallery for exhibitions costing millions at a time when money should be utilised to address the spiralling cost of living crisis created by this feckless Tory government.

“Our communities are on their knees with the cost of living crisis set to spiral further and further out of control. We should be supporting residents and communities and if this means spreading the wealth albeit in a cultural perspective then so be it.

“Why the Tory coalition are so against this proposal is unbelievable!

“Tory Coalition opposition of this proposal is infuriating. The named vote shows who supported the motion and who didn’t, confirming to the residents they represent their own priorities. That some are board members on AAPs beggars belief…Shame on them all!”