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Maria Miller dismisses cuts claims as 'close to pure fiction'

By • West End
Culture secretary Maria Miller has dismissed recent comments by culture heads criticising the government's arts funding cuts as "disengenous" and "close to pure fiction".

In a comment piece for the Evening Standard today, Miller, who assumed her post in the September reshuffle, answers recent claims by figures including Nicholas Hytner and Danny Boyle in the strongest of terms.

"I agree with many of their comments at the Standard Theatre Awards," Miller writes. "The arts do produce a clear benefit to the economy. But I do not accept this is all at risk under the Government’s spending plans."

Comparing "frontline" arts cuts of 15 percent to the 20 percent cuts facing the police, she adds: "Much of what we’re hearing from the arts world is close to pure fiction. Accusations that this Government neither likes nor supports the arts are disingenuous in the extreme."

Miller has come under fire for her perceived lack of contact with figures in the theatre world. At a recent press briefing at the National Theatre, artistic director Nicholas Hytner revealed he had not yet met her, while Danny Boyle called it a "disgrace" that she hadn't yet met heads of regional theatres. "It is these artistic directors that are spending the taxpayers' money," he told the Guardian, "she should be talking to them."

But in a Twitter exchange with theatre critic Mark Shenton yesterday, Miller insisted that she has "met lots of people in arts world and will continue to do so," and that these meetings were "not necessarily in the public arena".

Opposition to spending cuts in the arts world has grown in volume recently ahead of the Chancellor's autumn statement, which is due on 5 December.

Among others who raised the issue at the recent Evening Standard Awards were Billy Elliot director Stephen Daldry and Stephen Fry, currently appearing in the West End in Twelfth Night, who said: "Whatever your politics, you can’t believe that art has to take a stand in the marketplace like potatoes or knives and forks or any other industrial thing."

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