A £250 million cash boost for England’s culture and creative sector has been branded as a “cynical pre-election ploy” by the councillor who oversees the borough’s libraries.
Last week, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) unveiled the Culture Investment Fund, described by Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan as the “biggest ever single investment in cultural infrastructure, local museums and neighbourhood libraries”.
However, the announcement has been met with scepticism by Coun Anthony Burns, St Helens Council’s cabinet member for public health, leisure and libraries.
Coun Burns said the figure is a “drop in the ocean” compared to what the government has cut in council funding since 2010 and called on Whitehall to “properly commit” to the nation’s libraries.
“This announcement is a cynical pre-election ploy by the government,” Coun Burns said.
“The figure announced is a drop in the ocean compared to the amount of funding this same government has taken from the people of St Helens and local government nationally since 2010.
“We have a proud heritage and cultural offer here in St Helens borough and protecting and enhancing both are key priorities for us, as last week’s decision to approve the restoration process of both the Gamble Building and Earlestown Town Hall demonstrates.
“We’re fortunate to have a superb library service and amazing hardworking staff, but we can’t run the service on thin air.
“Sooner or later the government are going to have to properly commit to funding this essential service.”
The £250 million investment will be delivered by DCMS, with Arts Council England (ACE) having a key role in distributing the fund.
Money will go towards upgrading buildings and technology to make the nation’s libraries better equipped to respond to the changing ways people are using them.
Of this new funding, more than £125 million will be invested in regional museums and libraries around the country.
Additionally, more than £90 million will be provided to extend the Cultural Development Fund which uses investment in heritage, culture and creativity to drive regeneration and growth.
DCMS said it will invest an additional £50 million each year over the next five years in culture across England.
Following the announcement, a spokesman for St Helens Council said: “The council welcomes the commitment from the government to provide financial support to protect cultural infrastructure.
“Only last week the council’s cabinet discussed the protection of two iconic cultural assets in the borough – The Gamble Building and Earlestown Town Hall.”