THE future of Banbury’s only dedicated community arts centre is secure despite a 40 per cent cut in its council funding and six staff redundancies, according to its managers.
Nicholas Turner, chair of the management committee behind The Mill Arts Centre, said the venue will continue to serve the town with a wide range of community and arts programmes despite the confirmation that Oxfordshire County Council has slashed its annual grant to the centre by £90,000 and the confirmation on Monday that six council-employed staff – including the head of centre, the arts education manager and the arts development worker – are to be laid off.
Under new arrangements confirmed this week the council will provide a reduced annual grant of around £100,000 directly to the management committee, which currently employs some 20 full- and part-time staff at the centre and will now manage all staff directly.
But Mr Turner said the funding cuts will not mean a change in the level and quality of arts provision.
“I feel desperately sorry for those staff involved because they have put a huge amount of time and commitment over the years. It’s really sad that it has come to this,” he said.
“But this was the only way forward that we could see to keep the place open and to make it financially viable.”
Responding to suggestions that reduced council backing would mean a shift in emphasis away from community arts, Mr Turner said: “We remain totally committed to working with the community groups and classes and the adult education providers, and to reflecting the wide spectrum of the community we serve.”
Mr Turner confirmed the management committee will appoint an operations manager and a programme manager to replace the lost staff and further reorganising of staffing could follow.
But others have questioned the private nature of the consultations which led to the changes.
Whilst not denying that council cuts are unavoidable, Mill patron John Christie said: “The people of Banbury should know that the reorganisation involves getting rid of the excellent senior team.
He added: “We need to consult and involve the people of Banbury in how the Mill is to be operated and managed.”