ABOUT 200 protesters gathered in Taunton this morning to lobby against cuts to jobs, arts and other services across Somerset.

They were demonstrating outside Somerset College where Somerset County Council’s Cabinet committee has embarked on a meeting that will bring sweeping cuts – reported on this website over the last 10 days - a step closer.

The majority of the protesters were from the county’s arts groups with representatives from organisations including TakeArt, the Brewhouse Theatre, Taunton, and Somerset Film, based in Bridgwater.

The county council is planning to pull all its arts funding, a move that many fear will prompt other funding organisations – most notably the Government’s Arts Council – to follow suit.

The protesters had made a symbolic cake saying they only wanted a small slice of funding but they were unable to present it to council leader Ken Maddock before the meeting.

At the demonstration, Phil Shepherd, of Somerset Film, said: “I am here because I think the council is about to make a very bad decision.

“I am very concerned about how the risk assessment has taken place. We were negotiating a cut of 26% over three years but now they are cutting 100% in one year.

“A teacher said to me over the weekend, ‘the less art a child gets, the more it shows.’ Art is not just a leisure option – it is part of the fundamentals of life.”

Robert Miles, director of the Brewhouse, said: “We are trying to make the point to the Cabinet that the 0.0004% of the budget that they spend on the arts has huge leverage. It makes a real difference to people’s lives and is huge driver for the county.

“We understand cuts need to be made and the arts will do their bit but this 100% cut is just shocking and short sighted.”

The said the Brewhouse had been working with the Arts Council to secure a better funding package for the county, arguing that Somerset gets the least per head of any South-West county.

“Talks have been really positive because the Arts Council recognises the lack of investment. For Somerset County Council to send this out a message that Somerset doesn’t care about culture is dangerous in terms of attracting other national funding.”

Pauline Homeshaw, director of the 10 Parishes festival, centred around Wiveliscombe was also among the demonstrators.

The festival does not receive any funding from the county council but she said: “I’m here for the bigger picture. What the cuts say to the other funders is ‘our county doesn’t care about the arts’ – it’s just so wrong.”