SuperDragons could go as Newport council tries to save cash
POPULAR: John Williams, one of the SuperDragon artists with his Cyber dragon at Urban in Newport in June 2012
NEWPORT’S popular SuperDragons and Comedy Port Festival events could be under threat if new proposals for council savings go ahead.
City council leisure and culture cabinet member Debbie Wilcox is considering whether or not to cut the budget of events and arts development by £150,000 – with the two events needing to find non-council income or not take place at all.
One proposal in a package of £255,000 in possible savings the councillor is considering includes ending the art gallery’s temporary exhibitions programme, closing a squash court complex and reducing the public opening hours of the Bettws Active Living Centre.
None of the proposals was included in the original Newport council public consultation for the 2013/14 budget, launched last year, and Newport council only confirmed the proposals after queries from the Argus.
No decisions have been made. The authority approved savings proposals of £7 million in December.
According to a confidential council report, officers have proposed to merge arts and development teams and reduce their budget by £150,000, with two officers going part-time.
A total of £116,454 will be retained to invest in the Big Splash, the city centre events, the Christmas Countdown and arts development classes, workshops and projects.
But small community grants, Discover Dance, Comedy Port Festival and large-scale community art projects such as SuperDragons will have to be funded either through external grants, sponsorship or earned income, or not take place.
SuperDragons was first held in 2010, when it raised £100,000 for charity, and was held again in 2012.
Not all of the SuperDragons from the second project have been sold yet and an overall figure for howmuch has been raised is unknown.
The third Comedy Port Festival took place last year.
Newport council said the total cost of the second SuperDragons project was £141,886, spread over two financial years.
“The cost for the second project was substantially less than the first project which ran in 2010 (by about 30 per cent), as we managed the project in-house,” she said, adding there no plans for the project to run in 2013.
Bettws leisure couls partially close to save cash
A SPORT and leisure facility in Bettws could also be closed to the public in daytime hours during term time while temporary exhibitions at the city art gallery could be axed under council proposals.
According to a confidential council report the Active Living Centre at Newport High School is little used by the community during term time because of its use by the school.
Under the proposal, which could save £49,000, the centre would be open to the public from 4pm to 10pm and 8am to 8pm on weekends.
The temporary exhibition programme would be ended under proposals also currently in front of cabinet member Debbie Wilcox.
The council said the programme, which has operated since the 1970s, previously received guaranteed annual Arts Council Wales funding but this has ended with the council now receiving funding on a project-byproject basis.
A confidential report said that one officer post would be under threat of redundancy if the proposal, set to save £40,000, went through. It is hoped that ending the exhibitions would provide the opportunity to display work from the permanent collections on a regular basis.
Meanwhile proposals to cease operations at the squash court complex at the Newport International Sports Village could save the council £16,713, internal council documents said.
A spokeswoman for the council said the complex is 35 years old and needs significant improvement work.
Over the last year the courts have not been used for 84 per cent of the time.
“Alternative facilities are provided by Newport Squash Club at Rodney Parade – easily accessible by public transport,” she added.
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