Conservatives demand answers on festival funds

Greenwich Conservatives have expressed concern about the amount of taxpayers' money being spent on this summer's Greenwich Festivals, as grants are cut to other arts groups in the Borough.

Last week the Labour Leader of the Council, Chris Roberts, signed off a grant of another £100,000 to the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival, which delivers many of the events under the Borough's 'Greenwich Festivals' brand.  This was in addition to previous funding.  Conservative Councillors used powers under the Council's constitution to stop the decision taking effect until further scrutiny had taken place.

Councillor Nigel Fletcher, who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Greenwich Conservatives' spokesman for Culture, said:

"We support the Festivals, which have been a growing success, but in the current financial climate we need to look very closely at how taxpayers' money is being spent.  Earlier this year we spent night after night at committee meetings hearing from community groups, including pensioners' lunch clubs and arts organisations, who are all losing grant funding, so it was right for us to exercise our powers of oversight when it came to this very large item of spending."

He expressed his concerns in person at a meeting with Labour's Cabinet Member for Culture and senior Council officials, who presented detailed figures and provided a further explanation of the grant.  Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Fletcher said:

"Clearly this funding is needed to allow the Festival to take place this year, but the situation cannot continue as it is.  There must be much greater transparency over next year's funding arrangements, and ideally we should be helping them attract sponsorship so that Greenwich taxpayers are not bearing such a large share of the burden.  I hope the Labour leadership will take those points on board, and if so we will work constructively with them to ensure we get value for money."