Question to cabinet on the cultural strategy

According to the evidence base Shropshire Council invests some £10.6M into Cultural services. The same document goes on to say that the largest proportion of this is spent on theatres and public entertainment (£4.8M), the main centres being Theatre Severn and the Old Market Hall in Shrewsbury and the Assembly Rooms in Ludlow. The investment into these facilities has been very considerable with £3.5M just spent on the latter. The good news is that the Council operates these centres at a profit which is a credit to everyone involved. The bad news is that none of these facilities are available to the people of Oswestry, the second largest town in the County. Neither does Oswestry, nor indeed North Shropshire, contain any of the six museums operated by Shropshire Council.


In many ways the County mirrors the country. Oswestry has two wards in the 20% most deprived areas in the country. It also has higher unemployment and lower wages than Shropshire as a whole and more people reporting health limitations. On almost any deprivation matrix from car ownership to qualifications Oswestry performs worse than the County as a whole, underlining the need for major investment here.


Nationally the Government has embarked on a levelling up strategy to overcome similar historic inequalities in the provision of resources and funding recognising that investing in culture can be a great catalyst for economic and social renewal. However, I see nothing in this Cultural strategy that recognises this divide or seeks to level up the investment. There is a perfect opportunity to do this as part of the emerging Oswestry masterplan, but to date there has been no evidence that Shropshire Council is prepared to make a significant investment in the cultural assets of Oswestry. The innovation park is welcome, but without accompanying investment in the cultural life of the town we will not secure the economic regeneration that the town needs.


So rather than miss this opportunity to level up services across the county I am asking you to defer approval of this strategy to provide time to work with the Town Council and Oswestry Bid through the Future Oswestry Group and for Shropshire Council to committed to a levelling up agenda to provide the injection of resources into the cultural life of Oswestry that will go some way to rectifying years of under-funding when compared to the other major settlements of Shropshire.

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