Union calls for 'pause' in Newport cuts
A UNION has called for a pause to budget cuts to art and cultural services in Newport.
Peter Short, regional organiser of Unison, says proposals to end temporary exhibitions, close a library and close and relocate the Central Library and Museum to Newport Centre will have a "very serious impact" on Newport's cultural life.
He warned that the proposal to relocate the central library would deprive the city of one of the largest events venues in South Wales, and questioned how much scrutiny they had been subjected to by councillors.
It comes after protesters in John Frost Square on Thursday called for the council to reconsider its decision to axe temporary exhibitions at Newport Art Gallery.
Newport council is set to approve its budget for 2013/14 at a meeting of councillors on Tuesday. It, like all Welsh councils, is having to make significant cuts with purse strings being tightened in Westminister.
Mr Short, writing to all city councillors, said: "Please can UNISON suggest a 'pause' and reconsideration of these far reaching proposals. We are quite unclear what scrutiny they have been subjected to."
He said current proposals entail significant cuts in arts and events budgets. Mr Short said arts and library services contribute to the city's quality of life, and the proposal to close and relocate the central library and museum to Newport Centre would "deprive the city of one of the largest event venues in South Wales".
He wrote: "These proposals will surely have a very serious impact on the cultural life of Newport, as well as entailing significant job losses.
"They will also hit the so called 'cultural footfall' and benefits that brings to businesses."
Tory councillor David Fouweather said: "It's very telling that even the trade unions are now against the cuts being put forward by this Labour administration - trade unions that are the life blood of the Labour party."
Temporary exhibitions were scrapped by Debbie Wilcox, cabinet member for leisure and culture, in January. The Arts Council had previously ended annual funding for the scheme.
She also approved cuts of £150,000 to the arts and development budget, which will see some Newport events such as the Comedy Port Festival only return if alternative funding is found.
Cabinet on Monday agreed to save Maindee library but Stow Hill is still earmarked for closure.
Plans for moving the central library and museum into Newport Centre sports hall are unclear but a report said it could bring about savings of £700,000 in 2014/15.
A spokesperson for Newport council said: "The council informed local trade unions about the proposals in December and had a formal consultation meeting with representatives, including Mr Short, at the beginning of February. Comments made by the unions were included as part of the consultation process.
"A proposal to create a leisure and cultural hub, including the museum art gallery and library, in a reconfigured Newport Centre is still at a very early stage as is a proposal to explore the options for a sport and leisure trust.
"The council does not want to be in a position where it has to make savings, but in order to deliver a balanced budget for the benefit of all residents, and to continue delivering statutory services and protect front line services, they have to be made.