Major plans to alter and refurbish the Allen Gallery in Alton – which has an internationally-renowned ceramics collection – have been put in doubt by Hampshire County Council budget cut proposals.
The council plans to reduce its annual £2.5 million grant to the Hampshire Cultural Trust, which runs the gallery and another 23 cultural centres across the county, by nearly 50 per cent.
The trust warned multiple venues would have to close if the council, its largest funder, agreed to make the savings.
Asked by the Herald whether the Allen Gallery (pictured) and its redevelopment project which began last September were safe, the trust said: “We can’t confirm at this stage which venues will be affected. Future venue closures across the county will be inevitable if a cut of this scale is agreed.”
Trust chief executive Paul Sapwell added: “We understand that, like all local authorities, Hampshire County Council is in an incredibly difficult position: they have a huge challenge to balance their budget.
“Although our funding accounts for just 0.1 per cent of the council’s overall budget, we fully accept we have to play our part in taking a reduction. But we urge Hampshire County Council not to view a disproportionate cut to the funding of culture in our county as a simple solution to immediate budget pressures.
“Since we were established in 2014, we have already absorbed a real-time 50 per cent reduction in local authority funding and have replaced that revenue through increased sales and fundraising activity, as well as substantially reducing our costs.
“Despite this we will always be particularly vulnerable in a budget review of this kind, as museums, galleries and arts centres are not a statutory responsibility for councils.
“But culture is essential to the identity and fabric of Hampshire, is integral to our local communities, to everyone’s quality of life.”