A Strong Voice for Croydon Central - Gavin Barwell MP
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Playing politics with arts funding
22/06/2011 20:44:00

I have posted several times about the work I am doing – alongside Malcolm Wicks, the Labour MP for Croydon North – to ensure that Croydon gets a fair deal from the Arts Council.

Yesterday, former Conservative, former Independent and now Labour Party member Andrew Pelling leapt to the Arts Council’s defence tweeting that it was the “Council’s fault not Arts Council no £ here in CRO”. Now I know that Andrew is a big fan of Ken Livingstone, who was renowned during his time as Mayor for his focus on zone 1 at the expense of outer London, but I can’t believe any Croydonian can defend the fact that between April and December last year Croydon received just £210,000 of the £191.4 million that the Arts Council spent in London.

Andrew’s argument – to be fair to him, it is difficult to advance a detailed argument on Twitter – seems to be that it is the Council’s fault that the Arts Council only received three bids from Croydon and that if we had submitted more bids we might have got more money. It is certainly true that the Arts Council expressed disappointment that there weren't more bids from Croydon but there are two flaws with his argument. First, even if we should have submitted more bids, it doesn’t excuse the Arts Council’s failure to fund the ones we did submit (which included bids from the widely respected London Mozart Players and Warehouse Theatre). Second, Andrew seems to believe that the Council has sole responsibility for the arts in Croydon. I know he has undergone a road to Damascus political conversion but I would hope he still recognises a role for the private and voluntary sectors when it comes to the arts: it is not just down to the Council to submit bids.

You are left with the impression that Andrew prefers to attack the Council than stand up for Croydon. When Malcolm and I are working hard to try to ensure we get a fair deal, that's not helpful.

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