Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Waking up to impact of cuts

I fear that the country is still not waking up to the implications of the Coalition government’s plans to cut back on state intervention. This applies particularly to its own supporters.
While all the headlines, quite rightly, are about major issues like housing, jobs, defence, student fees and the like, it is the relatively minor victims of the cut backs that best illustrate their impact. It is in the minutiae of daily life that the pain will be felt.
Arts organisations everywhere in the North West were today having to come to terms with reduced funding. If we cannot afford homes, public services or aircraft carriers, then how on earth can luxuries like festivals expect to get away scot-free.
A good example is South Lakes MP Tim Farron calling on the police to meet to discuss the future of Kendal Torchlight Carnival.
He says the annual event has recently come under threat, with cuts in the Cumbria Police budget pressuring the local constabulary to consider charging for their support on the night.
Apparently the event organisers may be forced to find £15,000 to secure a police presence for the evening, which helps with crowd and traffic management throughout the town. Such a cost burden would almost certainly jeopardise the future of Kendal Torchlight, an event which is organised and managed entirely by local volunteers, said Mr Farron’s statement.
He goes to say: “Kendal Torchlight is a fantastic event for people of all ages across the South Lakes and has become a cherished tradition in the town after 41 years.
“The carnival plays a major role in instilling a sense of community and culture in our area. I, therefore, urge Cumbria Police to consider these merits when finalising their decisions on cut backs. It would be a significant loss to our area and something I will not let go of without a fight.”
Mr Farron is to be commended for pledging to fight student fee hikes, but he cannot expect every organisation in his Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency to escape the effect of the cuts. His party signed up to a Government that thinks it is necessary to reduce police funding. There are bound to be repercussions.
The police have to decide their own priorities. They cannot be blamed if they think Bobbies on the beat and tackling burglaries and violence have precedence over festivals.
Football clubs have for years had to pay the policing of match days, so why should a carnival be any different?
A far better case can be made to events such as the Mintfest International Street Arts Festival, which has been shown to generated £1.6m for the Cumbrian economy. The festival, also in Kendal, attracted thousands of visitors who watched performances by artists, comedians, acrobats, dancers and musicians.
The ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) at Manchester University into the impact of the Lakes Alive events in Cumbria showed that Mintfest makes a very important contribution to the local economy. That is the sort of cost effective event that deserves to escape the cuts. And not a policeman was in sight.

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