Richard Lewis: Spending on culture and sport is vital

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The city of Edinburgh is a world leader in culture, arts and festivals. It is something upon which we stake our reputation, one of the things that makes Edinburgh special and what many residents say they enjoy most about life in the Capital.

As a council we play a key role in supporting and developing this cultural climate all year round through funding to theatres, orchestras, galleries, community arts activities and the 12 major festivals that run across the calendar year. We also run 13 civic museums and galleries, operate key venues such as the Usher Hall and the Assembly Rooms, provide funding for world-class events, and support arts and sports organisations to deliver activities across all areas of the city. We also fund Edinburgh Leisure to run sports venues used by 4.5 million people a year.

Cultural and sporting activities are an integral part of the lives of many thousands of people in the city – and without this, life in Edinburgh would not be the same. This is why this council is seeking to protect our culture and sport budget – maintaining our funding for sport and physical activity, festivals and arts organisations, investing in projects such as the National Performance Centre for Sport and working with Edinburgh Leisure to ensure as many people as possible have access to good sporting facilities.

There’s no escaping the fact that as a council we are facing ever-increasing financial pressures as the demand on services increase but we have less money available to spend. We have a £1 billion budget and need to find £36 million of savings.

Though the £21m culture and sport budget represents a tiny fraction of this overall budget (around 2.5 per cent) the economic, social and cultural returns per pound are unparalleled. The festivals alone create more than 5000 jobs and bring in £261m to the Scottish economy – more than the amount golf tourism brings to the country. Without our funding, the cultural and sporting life of the city could not be sustained and many organisations could not survive. In my opinion, this is a price worth paying.

Still, we’re not immune to the economic climate and our venues will have to work harder year-on-year to generate more revenue.

But it’s important to note that our 2014/15 budget is still in draft form and we are inviting feedback from the public on our proposals for next year. I’ll be taking to Twitter this week to chat to people about how we fund culture and sport activities and hope to hear comments, suggestions or questions on our budget priorities.

• Councillor Richard Lewis is the city’s culture and sport convener