Oxford arts fears

Arts leaders speak out against abolition of Oxford City council 

Arts organisations in Oxford have warned they could be at risk if proposals to abolish Oxford City Council go ahead.

A letter signed by 16 heads of culture organisations, Oxford Playhouse, Modern Art Oxford and Arts at the Old Fire Station, said the proposals could have “a significant impact on the cultural life of the city”.

They argue that Oxford City Council, which would be abolished and replaced with a single council covering the county of Oxfordshire, had been a major investor in the arts.  

 “Despite the pressures caused by funding cuts from central government, Oxford City Council has continued to invest in culture and the arts. The city invests £285,000 a year in 14 core cultural partners - money which helps to leverage several million pounds worth of partnership investment from a diverse range of public and private sources including Arts Council England, charitable trusts and business, many of whom require local support to be in place.”

The letter says “We are concerned that a change to a county-wide unitary authority might put at risk the wonderful arts and cultural organisations we are lucky to enjoy.”

Oxford City councillors claim the single authority for the county would cover an estimated population of 900,000 by 2031and would be “too large and remote.”

But Oxfordshire County Council, which supports the idea, says the move would save £20 million a year in running costs for the six existing councils per year, allowing more money to be spent on the arts.

A spokeswoman said: “We absolutely recognise the importance of the arts and culture for Oxford and Oxfordshire. The proposal for a unitary council is designed to increase the opportunity for local decisions on funding of voluntary organisations, including the arts in Oxford.

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