Council fury over culture cash ranking

News story
News story

COUNCIL chiefs have hit back at claims that they are currently investing nothing in Wigan culture.

Research by arts campaign organisation 50p for Culture found that the borough spends zero per person, per week on supporting arts, museums and heritage.

The current average in England is 16p and the crusade group’s clearly show what its aims are.

It has ranked Wigan near the bottom of the country’s local authorities, coming in at 319 out of 326.

But council bosses say the poll hasn’t taken into account the fee it gives to leisure and culture provider, Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust (WLCT).

Penny McGinty, assistant director of resources at Wigan Council, said: “As the report explains, the figures do not take into account the community service fee Wigan Council pays WLCT as part of its contract to maintain and promote the borough’s leisure and culture activities. If it did I’m sure our position would feature much more prominently than it currently does.

“With such a rich and diverse heritage, promoting culture is very important to us. We have so many places to be proud of, including our great museum, the Turnpike Centre, Trencherfield Mill Steam Engine (pictured) not to mention all the other work that takes place in libraries and within communities through performance, music and dance. Obviously government spending cuts have impacted and will, inevitably, continue to impact the level of support we can give to leisure and culture.

“But through initiatives like The Deal and the Community Investment Fund we’re limiting that impact by working closely with communities to find better and more efficient ways of doing things.”

In just the last year the town has spent the culture budget on many big events including Wigan Food and Drink Festival.

A spokesman for WLCT added: “More than £675,000 was spent on culture in the last financial year supporting and promoting hundreds of events, temporary exhibitions as well as day-to-day operations at the Museum of Wigan Life, Trencherfield Mill Steam Engine and delivering art in the community through WLCT’s Community Wellbeing Arts Team.”

New voluntary umbrella organisation Trust In Leigh is also stepping up to the mantle to assist WLCT in the running of arts events within the borough.

Trustee Mike Baker said: “I don’t know how the survey has arrived at these statistics but at Trust In Leigh we recognise that the borough’s provision of culture and arts could be improved, especially the provision for young people. In particular, we want to focus on a pathway that allows our young people to develop their talents to be the best they could be.

“We have recently formed a partnership with WLCT and Curious Minds, an arts council bridge organisation.

“And we aim to develop the Turnpike Centre in Leigh into a creative hub which will focus on culture and arts.”