Two of Suffolk's councils are at loggerheads over recently-revealed plans to fund the arts and culture industries in the county.

Sarah Whitelock and Katie Graham, East Suffolk's cabinet member and deputy cabinet member for communities, leisure and tourism, have criticised Suffolk County Council over its latest proposals to fund arts, culture and museums.

In early January, the county council came under fire from theatres, performance groups and stars such as Dame Judi Dench and Andrew Lloyd Webber as it said it was cutting all £528,000 of its arts funding from April next year in a bid to balance the books.

East Anglian Daily Times: Sarah Whitelock, East Suffolk Council's cabinet member for communities, leisure and tourismSarah Whitelock, East Suffolk Council's cabinet member for communities, leisure and tourism (Image: East Suffolk Council)

A U-turn was performed several weeks later after the Conservative-run county council received extra funding from the government, with plans for a new £500,000 funding pot put forward.

Ms Whitelock and Ms Graham, both of the Green Party, have released a joint statement arguing the new pot of money is only confirmed for 2025/26 so far – but Suffolk County Council has insisted it will form part of the authority's revenue budget and the default position is it will carry on in future years.

East Anglian Daily Times: Katie Graham, Sarah Whitelock, East Suffolk Council's deputy cabinet member for communities, leisure and tourismKatie Graham, Sarah Whitelock, East Suffolk Council's deputy cabinet member for communities, leisure and tourism (Image: East Suffolk Council)

The two councillors say they "remain alarmed by the regressive proposals" and say they will affect east Suffolk destinations and events such as Leiston's Long Shop Museum and the First Light Festival in Lowestoft.

East Anglian Daily Times: The Long Shop Museum in Leiston The Long Shop Museum in Leiston (Image: Newsquest)

They said: "This is not a good situation for our museums and arts organisations which contribute so much to our residents. 

"As many have attested, the financial security that the council’s core funding provides is essential to their operation. 

"To remove this funding is to remove a financial security that allows them to plan ahead, and in many cases, means they are at risk of scaling back on projects that offer enormous value to those within our community.

"The council’s statement that this model opens up the funding stream to organisations that might otherwise have been overlooked is one that communicates a lack of confidence in the organisations that were already being supported. 

East Anglian Daily Times: The First Light Festival is held in LowestoftThe First Light Festival is held in Lowestoft (Image: Sonya Duncan)

"A further pot of money to attract fledgling initiatives would be a sound investment; removing existing funding to do this is only damaging."

In response, Philip Faircloth-Mutton, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for equality and communities, said: "People across Suffolk are rightly proud of our arts and cultural organisations and we have been adamant since starting our budget proposals that we would seek opportunities to support the arts and heritage sector.

"The council has previously provided a contribution of core funding to just 9 out of the many arts and culture organisations in Suffolk, all of whom deliver amazing work in their local communities.

East Anglian Daily Times: Philip Faircloth-Mutton, of Suffolk County CouncilPhilip Faircloth-Mutton, of Suffolk County Council (Image: Suffolk County Council)

"Our proposal to replace the core funding model with the new £500,000 project funding pot, will offer more opportunities to the whole of Suffolk’s arts and cultural sector to bid to help fund their projects.

"This new fund will be part of the council’s revenue budget from 2025/26 and is therefore recurring year on year to the same value, unless a decision is made to the contrary.

"We remain committed to supporting arts and culture and we will work with the sector to ensure this new funding pot is straightforward to apply for and that the funded projects meet the council’s priorities of looking after the health and wellbeing of Suffolk’s residents.

"The additional funding from government helps, but does not solve the financial challenges we are still facing.

"Difficult financial decisions remain, so that we can prioritise our spending on services like special educational needs and disabilities, home to school transport, adult care and children in care."