Cuts, cuts, cuts

March 3 2011

There was a strange piece on the Today programme this morning about cuts in arts funding. Ed Vaizey, the Arts Minister, was 'grilled' by leading arts practitioners. But the whole discussion (between five people) was edited down to just three and a bit minutes, so it was rather confusing. Ed said there was only an 11% cut; the arts gurus said 30%.

Which is true? Would you believe me if I said that the arts are being cut less than the police? Here's a handy guide to those arts cuts figures: [more below]

  • The DCMS budget has been cut by 25% from £1.4bn to £1.1bn over the next four years.
  • National Museums and Galleries, the 21 directly funded by the DCMS, will see a 15% cut in their annual revenue. This means that national museum funding in 2015 will be what it was in 2007.
  • The Arts Council England annual revenue has been cut by 30%. This cut has come with an 'instruction' that 'frontline' arts bodies will be cut by 15%, as with the national museums, and that ACE admin is reduced by 50%.
  • The ACE budget is now £449.5m. In 2014 it will be £349m. This means that by 2014, ACE will be providing revenue to arts organisations at the level it was in 2004, in real terms.
  • From 2012, capital funding from the National Lottery (the money to build extensions, galleries etc.) to the Arts will go up by £50 million a year. Heritage will also get £50m a year extra. This is thanks to changes in the distribution of good cause money, which Labour had reduced from 20% to 16.6%. 
  • The overall cut to arts spending, therefore, is, as Ed Vaizey said, 11% over the next four years in real terms - that is, the combined figure for grant-in-aid and Lottery capital. To put that into context, policing and criminal justice will be cut by 20%

Under the last government, the total arts spend (lottery capital plus government revenue) went down. Revenue went up, but Lottery went down by more. However, such is the reliance amongst arts bodies on government revenue that few complained. Now that the revenue is going down, it seems not to be noticed that the Lottery money is going up.

Vaizey has done well so far to get the spending package through without too much complaint - the arts could have been a very awkward constituency for the coalition last year. But now the tendency of the government to perform u-turns is giving heart to increasing protests amongst the arts sector. Personally, I think it would be a mistake for the arts to become overly politicised on this - they have an opportunity to widen their funding base, and thus their audience. Will too much whingeing merely alienate that audience?

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