Arts centre meeting attracts strong argument
By Martin Chapman on Tuesday, 9th January 2001.
A public meeting, to discuss the future of the Haverhill Arts Centre was packed with outraged residents last night.
Members of St. Edmundsbury Borough Council faced pointed questions from members of the public and the Town Council.
David Hart from the centre's Programming Advisory Committee said the programming policy the Borough proposed was "a recipe for disaster" which would see the centre close in a matter of months.
The word of the evening 'partnership' was interpreted in different ways with some people expecting the town council to match funding by the Borough.
This was strongly objected to by many people at the meeting who say the Arts Centre is used by a large number of people elsewhere in the borough of St. Edmundsbury, and the Haverhill taxpayer would effectively be paying twice for the amenity.
Steve Coleman accused the accused the Borough of working as a dictator rather than in partnership with the Town Council to resolve the uncertainty over the future of the centre.
Further questions were raised asking why the earlier bid made by Haverhill Town Council to run the Arts Centre was rejected even though it presented significant savings in the running costs while maintaining a full programme of events. Answers to these questions seemed to confuse rather than clarify the situation, and several members of the public pointed out fundamental flaws in the strategy that the borough council seems set to follow.
Howard Lay Headteacher of Samuel Ward warned: "You ignore Haverhill at your peril. This town has a right to have an Arts Centre."
With only a few days before the borough council make a decision as to the future of the Haverhill Arts Centre some people voiced their fears that the meeting may be too late. However, the large number of people who attended the meeting and their strong arguments against the drastic cuts will only go to show that the people of Haverhill will fight to keep one of the town's most important amenities.
After the meeting many residents accused Sara Mildmay-White's attendance at the meeting as a farce with her avoiding all questions put to her. She stated that the Arts Centre wasn't been singled out for cuts, but they were being found across the borough to reduce the projected £400,000 deficit within Leisure Services at the Borough.
Councilor Kiernan said "Partnership was the most used word of the night but partnership requires trust and trust requires the answering of questions. How much did the Borough need from the Haverhill taxpayer? No answer was given despite several requests."
Members of the Borough Council's Leisure Committee will meet on January 17 to discuss the future of the Arts Centre.
For further information visit www.haverhill-uk.com/admitnone by clicking on the web link above.
Web Link: http://www.haverhill-uk.com/admitnone
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