Arts Council England Sees Budget Slash…Again

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Arts Council England (ACE), fresh off a November struggle over a drastic funding cut, has just learned it will have its budget bled by a further ¬£11.6m before 2015. Arts Council England is the nation’s public cultural agency.

The BBC said on Monday the new cut comes “on top of reductions already announced in the government’s 2010 spending review, which saw the ACE budget slashed by almost 30%.”

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Maria Miller

The Guardian noted in a Nov. 28 article that, in that 2010 comprehensive spending review, Arts Council England’s budget was cut, in real terms, from ¬£449.5m to ¬£349m by 2014. It now becomes ¬£338m. ACE has asked to pass on cuts of only 15% to “front line” organizations.

The BBC noted that culture secretary Maria Miller in a blog on Monday said the cultural budgets must not be given “special protection”:

She added that the savings the [Department for Culture, Media and Sport, of which ACE is a part] must make, although “painful” are “considerably less” than the 5% cuts predicted.

“Our resource budgets, that’s the money that goes towards day-to-day running costs for all the bodies we support, the money that makes them tick, if you prefer, will reduce by one per cent in 2013/14 and two per cent in 2014/15.”

Miller’s view, however, has found opposition from cultural leaders, primarily Sir Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of England’s National Theatre. On Oct. 1 he introduced the theater’s annual report, and emphasized he wanted to highlight “enormous short-term issues” for regional theatres. He complained that any further financial cuts would be “madness.”

Miller in late November criticized the arts leaders for making statements “close to pure fiction,” adding that “accusations that this government neither likes nor supports the arts are disingenuous in the extreme.”

Sir Nicholas Hytner

Hytner volleyed back:

I need to know where she stands, and I am afraid where she appears to stand is that we’ve got to suck it up…

…The arts represent less than 0.1% of total public expenditure. The minimum requirement we’re asking for is that it should be protected. A reduction beyond the 30% the Arts Council has already received would unquestionably signify a withdrawal of support.

Hytner, no doubt, will see that added £11.6m hack as such a support withdrawal.

That added cut will also mean more job and budget reductions than ACE announced in October, which included a 21% cut in payroll and a 50% slashing of property costs.

Specifically, that meant the elimination of 117 positions, reducing the national agency’s workforce from 559.5 full-time posts to 442, and dropping the number of executive directors who support the agency’s executive director from eight to four. It wasn’t clear at press time what added specific cuts would result from the new ¬£11.6m reduction.

Along with the staff cuts, the agency said in October it was planning the following key changes:

  • leadership of artform and cultural policy expertise distributed geographically across the organization – everyone will have a local and national focus
  • property costs will come down by 50 per cent through reductions in the size of offices
  • major offices will be located in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol, plus some smaller local offices to keep the Arts Council close to the arts and cultural sector, and to local government
  • five areas covering London, the South East, the South West, the Midlands and the North replace the Arts Council’s current regions and areas.