Northcott faces closure - anger

PUBLISHED: 09:44 18 January 2008 | UPDATED: 08:46 10 June 2010

Calls for the South West Arts Council to be democratically accountable for the decisions it makes over £15.4m of tax payers money are growing.

Calls for the South West Arts Council to be democratically accountable for the decisions it makes over £15.4m of tax payers money are growing.

Exeter City Council has indicated that it has no confidence in the South West Arts Council's ability to make funding decisions after deciding to withdraw £547,000 of funding from the Northcott Theatre in 2009

"Each year this unelected quango distributes £15.4m of tax payers' money," said Council Leader Peter Edwards.

"There is no public accountability in its decision making, no chance for councillors to scrutinise the decisions and the information which they are based on and no opportunity for the public or press to attend its meetings.

"We, the elected representatives of the people of Exeter, are being denied access to the report the arts council's staff put to the board.

"How on earth can we ensure that proper justice is being done when we can't see the evidence on which decisions are made and we can't attend the meetings to ask questions."

The city council, which has invested £750,000 in the refurbishment of the Northcott, is claiming it has been woefully misled by the South West Arts Council, which gave clear assurances that their investment would be supported by continuing funding of the theatre after its re-opening.

Exeter City Council's 40 councillors have voted unanimously to condemn the decision to withdraw the funding from 2009.

Cllr Greg Sheldon, lead councillor for economy and tourism added: "We are very concerned about the lack of transparency in the way the South West Arts Council comes to its decisions."

The city council said it was becoming clear that the Northcott could close as soon as autumn 2008 unless the funding decision was reversed on January 21 as redundancies for some of the staff would need to be organised and assets sold.

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