Proposed budget cuts would have a major impact on plans to create jobs and grow the city’s economy and be a “blow for the entire cultural sector”, Aberdeen tourism and culture bosses said today.
Chris Foy, chief executive of Visit Aberdeenshire, which is facing a cut to its funding of £260,000, said the proposed reduction would “significantly jeopardise” the creation of new jobs in the city and hamper opportunities to grow the economy.
He added: “Tourism is a highly competitive industry, so this cut will seriously limit VisitAberdeenshire’s capacity to attract high spending visitors to Aberdeen, whether they would have come to an event at TECA, to see the Art Gallery, arrive on a cruise ship through the new harbour or fill empty beds in the city centre.
“With weekend hotel occupancy as low as 55% at last count, there has never been a more critical time to focus on promoting the city and helping local businesses diversify into new markets.
“Our loss will be a gain for Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow and Leeds to name but a few.”
Aberdeen’s Christmas VillageMeanwhile, Aberdeen Performing Arts (APA) – one of a number of organisations in the city facing cuts to its funding – has revealed the future of festivals Granite Noir and True North would be under threat if the savings options are approved next week.
And bosses at Aberdeen Inspired, which runs events including Nuart and the Christmas Village, also admit the cuts would have an “impact” on what it does.
APA faces cuts of just over £200,000 and its chief executive Jane Spiers said: “The budget recommendations are concerning and have come as a blow for the entire cultural sector in the city, including Aberdeen Performing Arts.
“It faces a reduction in core funding of £100,000 and a further cut of £110,000, which is the budget for Granite Noir and True North festivals.”
As revealed in yesterday’s Evening Express, a raft of cost-saving measures have been put forward in a bid to address the funding gap for 2019-20, with proposals unveiled to axe crossing patrollers, close libraries and increase council tax by up to 4.79%.
Aberdeen Inspired faces a cut to its budget of £47,000.
Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said he could not comment on whether some of its high-profile events could be affected until decisions had been made.
However, he added: “This puts a strain on all of us. We can’t comment on any of the detail yet. We simply don’t know what it means for us.
“For a small organisation, of course, it’s going to have an impact but we understand there is a bigger picture there and we will continue to enjoy an excellent working relationship with the city council.”
The Sound Festival supports a wide range of composers and local people but is facing a £12,000 cut in the proposed savings.
Fiona Robertson, festival director, said: “We understand the huge challenges faced by local authorities, but the proposed cuts are devastating to Aberdeen’s cultural offering and will have an extremely negative impact on the vibrancy and quality of life.
“If these cuts aren’t minimised, the negative effects on our local population will be long-term and cut across generations and communities.
“There is increasing evidence that access to the arts not only improves young people’s attainment but also improves health and wellbeing generally.”
Carol Benzie, chief executive of Citymoves dance agency, which could have its funding cut by £201,000, said: “We do appreciate the council’s difficult position in balancing their budget.
“But along with other charitable organisations potentially impacted, we are obviously extremely concerned at the level of cuts being put forward for consideration.
“We will continue to lobby councillors in the remaining days prior to their meeting on Tuesday to ensure they fully understand the benefits to the region of the funding support afforded to our organisation and others.”
Meanwhile, community groups supporting some of the city’s most vulnerable have also reacted with horror.
Paul O’Connor, chairman of Inchgarth Community Centre in Garthdee, said proposals to save £300,000 by transferring community centres into community ownership would kill off centres across the city, including his own.
He said: “Community asset transfers are about communities deciding to do that, not being obligated to.
“We would have to find about £35,000 on top of everything we are striving to do.”
Claire Whyte, community worker at the Fersands Community Project, based in Woodside, said she was “absolutely gobsmacked” to learn the organisation could lose £91,000 of its funding, meaning jobs would be cut and services “dramatically reduced”.
The organisation, which runs a full-time nursery, parents’ group, social work service, support to families and youth clubs, held an emergency meeting to discuss the funding announcement yesterday.
Claire said: “It would be catastrophic.
“We couldn’t believe it when we saw the figure. If that is agreed then jobs are going and services will be dramatically reduced.
“If you remove these services it will only cost the state more in the longer term.
“I have been here 12 years and I have never seen cuts like this. It’s absolutely terrifying.”
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Her concerns were echoed by Kit Trail, co-ordinator at the Printfield Community project, which provides crèches, parent support, youth groups and out-of-school care, but faces funding cuts of £71,000.
She said: “This would take out our core budget so that is a big concern. We employ up to 14 people so that would mean their jobs going. These are the worst cuts I have seen.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Aberdeen Council will receive an additional £15.4 million from the Scottish Government in 2019-20 to fund local services. Using their council tax powers they could also generate an additional £5.8m meaning a total of £381.6m. This represents an increase of £21.2m or 5.9%.”