Leader’s warning that free Norwich events could be hit by cash cuts

Norwich City Council leader Brenda Arthur. Photo: Steve Adams

Norwich City Council leader Brenda Arthur. Photo: Steve Adams

Free Norwich events such as The Lord Mayor's Celebrations could be at risk of being 'diminished' because of funding cuts, the leader of the city council has warned.

Brenda Arthur said she was unable to guarantee Labour-controlled Norwich City Council would be able to protect funding for the numerous free events the council provides.

She said a squeeze on how much councils get from the government meant she could not rule out there being less to spend on free entertainment in the future.

She said: 'The city council has a long and excellent record of providing free events for the people of Norwich.

'The events team continue to excel themselves with the events they run and the events they develop in partnership with other organisations.

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'Indeed we were only able to stage the impressive Olympic Torch celebrations because of our work in partnership with others and thanks to grants from local organisations.

'This administration has made no secret of the fact that we see not only the cultural benefit but the economic and social benefit of bringing people together in celebration.

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'The social benefit being for me of huge significance especially in times when many people have considerably less money to spend on entertainment and access to the arts in their widest form.

'However we do not have the resources we once had and the recent Comprehensive Spending Review was particularly harsh towards local government.'

She said the council, which has made £23m of savings over the past five years, would have to make at least £2m more savings each year.

And she warned: 'While we will continue to work hard to generate other income and realise savings that don't significantly impact key services to our residents this will become more and more challenging and will inevitably mean that in the future we will have some very difficult choices to make.'

Her comments were in response to a call for a guarantee of funding for free events such as the Lord Mayor's Procession from Green councillor Ben Price, who said he was disappointed she had not made that guarantee.

But Ms Arthur said: 'They are events I would not want to see diminished in any way, but I cannot tell the council we would not consider doing that, because we have really difficult choices to make.

'All I can tell you is that, I, personally, am really committed to events such as these, but I cannot say yes or no, really.'

This year's Lord Mayor's Celebrations included a spectacular fireworks display from Norwich Castle along with the traditional procession of floats, street performances and events in Chapelfield Gardens.

While Norwich hosted pageants back in medieval times, the Lord Mayor's Celebrations date back more than 200 years, although their modern-day incarnation dates back to the 1970s.

But in 2010, the celebrations were 'streamlined' as the city council looked to save £6m. Changes made then included having the procession start at 5pm instead of 6.45pm, while the live music in Chapelfield Gardens was scaled back.

The city council also announced last year that it would not running the ticketed Sparks In The Park event at Earlham Park this year, planning instead to hold a free fireworks display in the city centre.

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