WARD councillors have spoken out about Norden Farm amid fears the Royal Borough council could pull its funding.
Over the years, the arts in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) have enjoyed hundreds of thousands of pounds from the council – but that could soon after concerns were raised after the council’s 2022/23 budget consultation didn’t include support for the arts.
Norden Farm chief executive and artistic director Jane Corry, said it was “upsetting” to see the council planning to withdraw its “essential” arts funding.
The Public Campaign for the Arts, which protects UK culture from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, have set up a petition demanding the council to reinstate its funding into the borough’s art centres.
The local authority is paying for an independent external consultant to understand what options are available for Norden Farm and to see if it could ‘self-finance’ itself without having to rely on council funding.
Council leader Andrew Johnson (Con: Hurley & Walthams) insisted no decision has been made and will be decided depending on what the consultants say in their report, which is expected to be published “imminently”.
Reacting to the news over Norden Farm’s future Boyn Hill and Conservative councillors Stuart Carroll and Gurpreet Bhangra have released a joint statement.
They said they wait to see the external consultant’s review of Norden Farm but emphasised they want to see the arts centre “succeed and be as fully independent as it can be so that it can sustain its long-term future”.
In a statement, the ward councillors wrote: “We are working closely with Norden Farm and now await the outputs of an independent expert consultant report to see how Norden Farm can be made even more viable and sustainable.
“That is why there is currently no budget line item, as we have brought forward the earliest budget consultation in recent RBWM history and so wanted to get the ball rolling on public engagement and because of our central commitment to transparency.
“Given this is precious taxpayer money and there are so many calls on the council’s budget given the enormous pandemic stresses and legacy consequences, having the facts and evidence independently set out is quite right before decisions can be made on the level of additional support.
“That is just sound best practice, and it is not unreasonable for a council, on behalf of taxpayers and residents, to want that thorough review.
“The council is also looking at introducing a local lottery for future funding streams of which Norden Farm would be a priority partner. Other councils have implemented such schemes, building on the Big Lottery approach and with huge success.
“The need to be innovative and dynamic is key as we work through this difficult and crippling pandemic. The world has changed, and we must continue to embrace the need to work differently and more effectively.”
They insisted there are “no plans” to build anything, such as flats, at Norden Farm.