A PETITION to secure council funding for the Corn Exchange in Newbury received 340 signatures.

The petition asked for £50,000 a year from West Berkshire Council [WBC], and was presented to the council’s executive meeting last week.

As part of the council’s plans to save £6 million from its annual revenue budget, the current plans are to scrap all funding for the Corn Exchange. Previously, the arts centre received £174,000 from WBC each year.

Grant Brisland, director of the Corn Exchange, said: “The residents of West Berkshire hold the Corn Exchange in high regard and we continued to be humbled by the support we are receiving.

“We play a fundamental role in the life of Newbury and the surrounding areas but we also have to acknowledge the unprecedented funding position of the local authority, who are also gifting us the Corn Exchange building in a bid to secure our sustainable future.”

The Corn Exchange is an arts centre with a 400 seat auditorium, an independent cinema, bar, and outdoor arts centre. The arts centre also runs courses and workshops and receives funding from the Arts Council England.

Mr Brisland said: “We’ve taken positive steps to become less reliant on the public purse and the investment from the council now represents less than six per cent of our turnover as a charitable organisation.

“However, a smaller annual contribution of £50,000 from the council would inevitably send a hugely positive signal to the community as to their commitment in making Newbury a great place to live and also to prospective national funders who are more likely to fund activities with local partnership support.”

The arts centre is running a fundraising campaign called ‘Save Your Corn Exchange’, asking for donations of £2 a month. The campaign’s target is to raise £150,000 to help fill the funding gap left by the council.

Paul James, WBC’s culture manager, said: “We are proud to have [the Corn Exchange] in the district and want to support them where we can. Over the past two years it has been increasingly hard for us to provide financial support because of an increasing demand for our services and particularly social care for our most vulnerable residents.

“We’re grateful to the Corn Exchange for understanding the difficult position we find ourselves in and look forward to continue working with them in the coming years.”

The Corn Exchange is a Grade II listed building which used to be owned by WBC who recently transferred it to the Corn Exchange Trust.