Funding 'essential' to The Old Court as council grants cut looms

Shay Bottomley

shayb@baylismedia.co.uk

An arts centre in Windsor has said Royal Borough grants ‘have been essential to fulfilling the arts provision to the community’ ahead of a proposed decision to cease its funding in the 2022/23 council budget.

Martin Denny, director of The Old Court in St Leonards Road, has said the venue has ‘a plan in place to manage this next financial year’ ahead of the upcoming budget.

Arts venues such as The Old Court have seen a reduction in funding from the council over the past year; as it stands, the council is set to cease funding for the Old Court and Norden Farm in Maidenhead.

The move was announced last year, but with the council consulting on its budget and the new financial year approaching, it has become the subject of fierce debate on social media.

“We were told funding would cease in the third quarter of this financial year, and we shared the desire to see this return when the economy picked up,” said Mr Denny.

“It has been a tough couple of years for everyone, and this news was of course unwelcome. The funding from RBWM has been essential to fulfilling the arts provision to the community that The Old Court agreed with the council to undertake when we took on the lease in 2017.

“We are looking at what we will provide this year, but will maintain our purpose of serving the community, and we have a plan in place to manage this next financial year. The councillors responsible for supporting The Old Court have done so, and we continue to have good relations with officers at RBWM.

“It is our hope that funding for the arts will certainly return in the following financial year, which is a hope we share with RBWM.”

Mr Denny encouraged residents to continue to support The Old Court which ‘will continue to provide a welcoming, thriving arts centre for the people of Windsor'.

He added: “The council budget consultation is open to the end of the month. Local residents can give feedback, and show their support for the arts in Windsor using the comments box.”

A petition has also been launched by the Public Campaign for the Arts asking for reinstatement of the arts funding in RBWM, which Mr Denny described as ‘very welcome’.

The council’s lead member for culture and heritage, corporate & resident services, Samantha Rayner (Con, Eton & Castle) said ‘it was made clear that there would be no funding in the following years budget’ during discussions prior to the 2021/22 budget.

She added: “This was because of the financial situation at that time, and we expressed our hope that funding in the future may return.

“Currently Norden Farm and Old Court have service level agreements where they have to provide certain returns for the funding they receive.

“The council is working to support additional sources of income as well as encouraging diversifying.

“Since that time the council have been having discussions with Norden Farm and now are awaiting the independent external consultants’ reports to understand what options are available. The council is also in close contact on a regular basis with the Old Court which is in an building which is owned by RBWM.”

To take part in the budget consultation, visit https://rbwmtogether.rbwm.gov.uk/budget-consultation 

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