Shame to cast Towner blame

From: Debbie SmithSummerdown Road

Friday, 26th January 2018, 9:00 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 12:21 am
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The dilemma facing the local council about their funding of the Towner gallery was perfectly illustrated by two letters in The Herald on December 29.

One letter, from an Eastbourne resident, said that they hadn’t even heard of the Towner let alone visited and pointed out the people queuing for a meal outside the Salvation Army Citadel.

The second letter suggested that by reducing the amount the council give to the Towner the council are putting Eastbourne’s heritage at risk.

I’m sure that it is with a heavy heart that the council have had to reduce the level of funding to the Towner but this is a direct result of the cuts made by central government. In 2010 the level of government grant paid to Eastbourne Borough Council was £10m. It has now been cut to £5m and will be cut by another £1m in April 2018: a reduction of £6m which the council needs to address and budget for, in the same way as the Towner need to budget for cuts in their income. When the Towner Trust was established the council guaranteed them a grant of £600,000 for four years, which they have honoured.

They also benefit from reduced business rates and back office services worth another £200,000.

So the trustees have known for over four years that their funding could be cut and have known for 15 months by how much. They’ve had over four years to plan for this possibility and to look creatively at ways to become more commercial. Emma Morris made the decision to leave just as this challenge was becoming reality. Joe Hill, the new director has been appointed with the knowledge of the task ahead and hopefully the board of trustees feel he has the skills and desire to strengthen the Towner’s fabulous work: the wonderful exhibitions and its valuable work with the local community, but in a way which makes it more commercially viable.

It might be worth looking at The Jerwood in Hastings which I believe does not receive funding from Hastings Council? The Towner is the most wonderful asset to Eastbourne and to those who visit it.

I think it is a shame that the trustees have blamed the council for this situation – rather than thanked them for their generous and continued support, whilst looking to the task of making the Towner a commercially viable enterprise.