Basingstoke Council is planning to cut its investment in The Anvil and The Haymarket by at least half from 1 April. Read more details below.
We are extremely concerned at the decision taken by members at last night’s Cabinet meeting and the significant impact this will have on the entertainment and cultural offering we provide for the town and our wider communities.
In addition, there were a number of inaccurate comments made about The Anvil Trust and we would like to set the record straight.
The Anvil Trust charity entered into a five-year agreement with the Council in 2017. The annual investment was agreed by both parties for the management and operations of Anvil Arts, which includes the two flagship venues of The Anvil and The Haymarket.
The agreement included a 25% reduction in Council investment over its term, meaning that this investment has now reduced by 40% over the last seven years. Furthermore, understanding the additional challenges COVID-19 has created, in December 2020 we offered to take a further 25% (£200,000) cut from the final year of the agreement in 2021-22. This offer was rejected by the council.
We were alarmed to hear a comment made at last night’s Cabinet meeting that the Trust’s business plan is not fit for purpose. This is categorically untrue. Every business plan that the Trust has produced since it started in 1993 has been approved by the Council and the Arts Council. Progress against these plans is reported to the Council each quarter and approved to release the next tranche of investment. Like all organisations, we have updated the business plan for 2021-23 in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is currently being assessed by consultants employed by the Council.
We estimate that having to close for the last year has meant we have lost over £1.4 million in income. The Trust generates over 60% of its income from the programme and associated trading. It is entirely unreasonable for the council to rip up our five-year contract with 90 days’ notice and impose an at least 50% cut with the expectation that we can quickly find the money elsewhere.
If this cut goes ahead, it will be impossible for us to continue with our current programme of work in schools, with young performers, and with the popular free Musication Station project in Festival Place. It will mean severe cuts to our work with people with special educational needs, dementia, autism and other disabilities. By its very nature, this is essential work that cannot be carried out on a commercial basis.
The fact is that the council is seeking to reduce its arts and culture budget, with almost the entire cut taken from Anvil Arts. We believe this is a short-sighted approach that will damage the future economic growth of the town, damage our contribution to the mental health and well-being of people in the town and negatively affect the experiences and opportunities we provide to our local communities.
We urge them to reconsider this decision and work with us on a solution that recognises their financial difficulties but continues to protect and support the future of the major arts and entertainment venues in Basingstoke.