Lothians art funding slashed by councils

COMMUNITY arts funding across the Lothians is to slashed as councils battle to balance their budgets.

COMMUNITY arts funding across the Lothians is to slashed as councils battle to balance their budgets.

Museums, theatre groups and libraries are all expected to be cultural casualties of the latest round of spending cuts.

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Draft proposals in East Lothian show plans to reduce museum opening times, withdraw theatre funding and scrap free music lessons in a bid to save £132,000.

Mobile libraries also face the axe with both Mid and East Lothian councils setting out plans to drastically reduce the service by April.

Brunton Theatre, which had received annual funding from East Lothian Council, faces possible job cuts after it was revealed it will lose £50,000 over the next two years.

Theatre trustee Roger Knox said it was particularly disappointing after the Musselburgh venue had recently received a multi-million pound makeover.

“While everyone has got to take a share of the cuts, it is the worst possible time for it to happen to the Brunton,” he said.

“To spend £3.4 million on the refurbishment and then say you can’t exploit it seems ridiculous.

“The theatre has huge potential but in order to make money we have to spend money like any other business. If the theatre can’t advertise its wares properly then it’s going to miss out to the big boys in Edinburgh and elsewhere.”

Museums including the John Gray Centre in Haddington, the open-air museum Prestongrange, Dunbar Town House and John Muir’s Birthplace could all see a reduction to their opening hours.

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Dunbar and East Linton councillor Paul McLennan said: “The museums are vital for the community in terms of tourism as they attract people from all over the world.

“It will be really sad for the industry if they start having to close on certain days.”

East Lothian library staff face a cull, with planned reductions to branch posts and a major reduction to the mobile library service.

This follows Midlothian Council’s decision to reduce their service by half to make savings of £30,000.

Councillor Bob Constable, Cabinet Member for Public Services and Leisure at Midlothian Council, said: “We are currently consulting on the redesign of the mobile library service which will look at how we can best use the resources that we already have.

“Reducing the mobile library service is due to save over £30,000, which can be ploughed back into front-line services.”

But Bonnyrigg Labour councillor Derek Milligan said he feared the service would be scrapped altogether.

“To cut it by half makes you wonder if it’s just a prelude to getting rid of it altogether,” he said. “It’s the elderly that are going to suffer.”

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A spokesman for Age Scotland said the cuts were “deeply disturbing” and could have ramifications for elderly people.

She said: “Some older people will be housebound and the great advantage of mobile libraries is that it is a service that goes to them.

“For many this may be the only interaction they have in a week so it is worrying this will be taken away. Making these small savings now will prove costly in the long-run.”