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Changes to Shire Hall and Arts offer approved

Changes to Staffordshire’s arts offer and proposals for the future use of Shire Hall have been approved by the county council’s cabinet.

With the authority intent on balancing less income with the need to spend more than ever before on looking after the elderly, people with disabilities and children needing care, it has been agreed that funding for the arts offer is reduced.

Under the plans:

·         a county council officer will help arts groups access grants;

·         money will remain for the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle, which in turn allows it to apply for more than £1 million in Arts Council funding;

·         The Multi-Sensory Environment room will be moved to a dedicated room at Stafford Library.

The decision will also see the closure of the gallery at Shire Hall and £30,000 worth of grant schemes stopped.

Also approved at the same meeting were recommendations that work continues to develop a long term use for the Grade II* listed Shire Hall and that it be kept safe until that time.

Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Communities and the Environment, said:

Our commitment to spend £300 million on care this year, while receiving less money means we have had to make very difficult decisions in areas like the arts.

Nonetheless, there is a thriving amateur arts scene in Staffordshire and our officer will help those groups and organisations in any way they can to access support.”

She added:

The Multi-Sensory Experience room is very popular and its future is assured in a bespoke room at the library nearby.”

Ian Parry, Staffordshire County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for Finance and Corporate Matters, said:

We are determined to find uses for Shire Hall which will make this important building able to sustain its own future.

We will work with public and private sector partners to look at the possibilities and this will be as part of our commitment to work with Stafford Borough Council on the wider regeneration of the county town.”