Newcastle approves culture cuts to save £100m

Newcastle City Council has approved a plan to cut its £1.2m arts grants, which will affect funding for the National Centre for Children’s Books and see libraries close.

The council approved the controversial plans as part of a decision to make £100m of savings at a meeting at Newcastle Civic Centre last night (6th March).

The proposals were rolled back from a 100% cut in arts funding to a 50% cut, with a new £600,000 Newcastle Culture Fund being established for the City.

However, the proposals mean the council will still close a string of libraries, along with cutting funding for youth and children’s services, the number of children entering care and axing 1,300 jobs.

As the proposals were read out from a document entitled Fair Choices for Tough Times, cries of “shame” rang out from the public gallery, according to Sky Tyne and Wear. Groups such as Save Newcastle Libraries and Coalition of Resistance protested outside the Civic Centre last night before the meeting began.

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes said he was "deeply angry" that every grant the council receives is being slashed by an "unfair government" but said the cuts were being made "with a heavy heart and much soul searching".

In total 10 libraries will close by 2016, although five could be saved if community groups step forward to take them over. The first seven to shut will be Cruddas Park, Denton Burn, Dinnington, Fenham, High Heaton, Jesmond and Moorside. In 2015 Blakelaw, Fawdon and Newbiggin Hall will close.

Author Ann Cleeves has previously described herself as "furious" about the plan to close 10 libraries in Newcastle. She has said: “We shouldn't be planning to close Cruddas Park but to develop it. In communities like this, libraries provide people's only access to the arts. So let's use these safe, welcoming spaces to introduce people to poetry, music and drama as well as to books."