Popular children’s theatre in Wimbledon may have council funding slashed due to budget pressures


The council are discussing plans to cut funds to the Polka Theatre


By SW_Londoner staff

A children’s theatre in Merton risks having its funding reduced as part of the council’s cuts to services across the borough.

The Polka Theatre, on Wimbledon Broadway, is dedicated to producing and showing work for young audiences. Over 100,000 children visit the theatre every year, experiencing their first taste of engaging and exciting theatre.

Merton’s Councillor for Community and Culture, Nick Draper, has recommended a cut of £5,000 in 2014, followed by a further cut of £5,000 in 2015.

At a council meeting last week, the Overview and Scrutiny Commission raised objections to various cuts to frontline services, including the Polka Theatre and The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

Labour councillors asked the commission to reconsider its objections, a move attacked by Merton Conservatives.   

Councillor Suzanne Grocott, the Conservatives’ Finance Spokesperson, said:

“Labour are determined to keep cutting services and hiking charges for Merton residents instead of making the efficiency savings we know they could be making. It was already clear that they are incompetent at managing the council’s finances.”

Councillor Draper pledged that despite some necessary cuts, his firm intention was to maintain arts delivery in some form in Merton, regardless of budget pressures.

“That isn’t an easy promise,” he said. “Croydon Council stopped its Arts funding altogether in 2011, and Westminster Council have stated that they would do the same this year: in the latter case their spokesman said, ‘It’s either the Arts budget or Meals-on-Wheels’.

“Merton currently manages to sustain five professional & semi professional theatres as well as annual arts festivals including the Wimbledon Music Festival and Abbeyfest.”

He added that the arts were continuing to flourish across the borough.

“You need look no further than this year’s New Year’s Day Parade where, without a penny of the Council’s money being spent, but with the active help of people from the Colour House Theatre, Wimbledon College of Art, and many others from all areas of Merton’s community – part-led and part-staffed, I should add, by a group of dedicated Labour Councillors – we won the first prize of £7,500 for our float, hands down, in front of an enormous world-wide television audience,” he said. 

The issue will be discussed further at the Budget Council Meeting on Wednesday March 6. 

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