Community leaders voiced concerns over budget plans for cuts to the arts and the closure of a town record office. 

As part of its 2024/25 budget, Suffolk County Council proposed to scrap its £500,000 'core funding' for the arts sector from April 2025 and replace this with a new £500,000 project fund for the following year which all Suffolk arts and heritage organisations can apply for. 

The council also proposed the closure of the Bury St Edmunds record office and the subsequent move of the archives to The Hold in Ipswich.

East Anglian Daily Times: Protest at Bury St Edmunds record officeProtest at Bury St Edmunds record office (Image: Bury St Edmunds Society CIO)

Suffolk County Council needs to spend an extra £74m on vulnerable adults and children over the next two years - but over the same period needs to save almost £65m. 

During a full council meeting on Thursday, Cllr Richard Rout said the budget plan was one that would benefit 'the whole of Suffolk'. 

However, the Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent Group raised an amendment to the proposal that included an extra £250k from SCC reserves to provide core funding for arts and museums, and a pause to the record office closure until discussions with district councils had concluded. 

Cllr Andrew Stringer, for Upper Gipping, proposed the amendment and said: "You're claiming that having a bid for a grant model is in a way levelling the playing field and in a way it is but it misses the point, you're making the playing field a lot smaller by that action."

Of the record office, he said: "It is about local identity and respect, I think we owe it to the good people of Suffolk to at least pause this move to allow meaningful talks to take place."

Cllr Victor Lukaniuk, who represents Brandon, branded the move of the records 'bizarre' while cllr Richard Kemp, for Melford, said of the consultation with district councils not being concluded: "You should wait really in a democratic society. It is what it is all about."

Cllr Hicks argued against the 250k core fund proposal, stating that taxpayer money shouldn't be funding a 'select few' organisations, and that their new plan lets every organisation apply. 

The council voted on the amendment with 19 in favour and 47 against, meaning it was lost.