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Comment on the Spending Review and ACE funding decisions

Louise de Winter, Director, National Campaign for the Arts
It’s a rum day when cuts of 15% can now be greeted with some measure of relief; we’re not saying these cuts won’t hurt, but they will be more manageable than was previously feared. It appears that the Government has listened to the warnings from senior figures in the cultural sector about the damage that would be sustained by the creative industries – the UK economy’s fastest growing sector – by a higher level of cut; and that the Chancellor recognises the value that the cultural and creative sector makes to the economy.
However, ACE has received an overall budget cut of nearly 30% and has to make a 50% cut in its administrative costs, so further savings still have to be sought elsewhere in the budget. Coupled with the fact that ACE may be expected to take on additional responsibilities and functions following the abolition of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and UK Film Council, we are concerned how this might impact on the arts overall.
Arts organisations will also have to take into consideration the impact of the higher level of cuts to local authority budgets of 28%. As non-statutory services, they will be affected by the squeeze felt by local authorities as they simultaneously have their budgets slashed and are prevented from raising extra revenue through the Council Tax. We are concerned that this impact will fall greatest on the smaller organisations, particularly in the regions and rural areas.

Dave Moutrey, Director and Chief Executive, Cornerhouse
Alone the 6.9% cut will not be cataclysmic, but when local authority cuts, film funding cuts etc are added to the equation this is going to be one of the most serious challenges we have faced as a sector.

Mark Pemberton, Director of the Association of British Orchestras

We recognise that in a climate of huge spending reductions across all public services the government has listened to our arguments, with cuts in funding for organisations such as orchestras being limited to 15%. However, even this level of reduction will pose a significant challenge for orchestras across the UK. Orchestras make a massive contribution not only to Britain’s cultural life, providing high quality music performances to audiences in all parts of the country, but to music education in schools, nurturing young talent, social wellbeing and local communities. The many local authorities who recognise this contribution and fund orchestras and concert halls in their local areas will also have significantly fewer resources, so this will only add to the challenge. Orchestras will continue to maximise income from other sources, and in this respect, the announcement that there will be increased incentives for philanthropy and reform of the National Lottery is welcome.

Roy Clare, Chief Executive, Museums, Libraries and Archives Council
It is a day filled with difficult news, but people who value museum services will take quiet satisfaction that the Renaissance Programme is to be renewed; and at a level that can maintain improvement and development in museums across England. But we need to look carefully at the local government funding position. Councils are left with really tough decisions that could leave museum, library and archives services extremely vulnerable.

Marcia Hutchinson MBE, Managing Director of Primary Colours
If we split our clients into two main groups, schools and local authorities, it's clear that the former have done better than the latter. Local government spending is down by 27% - a huge figure, and we have already seen a drop in bookings. Direct funding to schools has been ring fenced. In theory, therefore, schools will still be able to afford our products and services but theory is very different from practice. If schools feel threatened they will cut back on what might be seen as non-essential spending, whether or not they have access to the £2.5bn "pupil premium" for teaching disadvantaged pupils.

Dr Stephen Cottrell, Head of the Department of Creative Practice and Enterprise at City University, London
ACE has endeavoured to protect its regularly funded organisations as best it can [but] …arts organisations, particularly smaller ones, are generally run on quite tight budgets, so this decrease in year one of a four year plan will certainly be felt. The ensuing years will be tougher still, particularly for organisations that also depend on shrinking local authority funding, which are likely to be hit with a 'double whammy'. The requirement for ACE to trim its own activities by 50% is a significant cut, and it's difficult to see how it can continue the breadth of its regional administrative organisations with a cut of that magnitude.
But artists and arts organisations are legendarily entrepreneurial; they will doubtless endeavour to make up these shortfalls in a variety of ways. As the private sector gets back on its feet, the opportunity for business sponsorship of the arts may develop, and the more prestigious arts organisations may be able to take advantage of this. ACE's decision to withdraw funding from Arts & Business looks paradoxical in this respect.

Hannah Nicklin, Theatre Artist, Hacktivist and Academic
Two things are going to suffer most in the light of 29% cuts to ACE, 25% to local government and 100% to non STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teaching in higher education. Firstly, regional and community theatre: much of this relies on investment from local authorities, which, facing massive job losses and the pressure to privatise their services, will be hard pressed to see the arts as an investment. Secondly, innovation and education: cuts to the higher education system, and a subsidised arts sector stripped to the bone and forced to rely on private investment will get us both coming and going.
My greatest hope is that the industry stands tall and we challenge ACE to revise how it thinks about funding art. Just as in the greatest period of national debt the big idea of the welfare state was born – I believe the arts need to think big ideas about how and what we fund. Dealing in hard facts is repugnant to some, but they don’t half help when lobbying politicians. The most important thing is to keep art alive (and in all of the UK) so that as we lobby and state our case we have something to take forward – not a corpse to resuscitate.

Michael Boyd, Artistic Director, Royal Shakespeare Company
We are concerned that the settlement for ACE doesn’t allow it sufficient room to manoeuvre. We know cuts are likely to be front-loaded next year, but we hope they can be applied so as to allow time to plan for the future, reduce costs efficiently and find new sources of funding. As a supporter of the principle of arm’s length funding, I find it disappointing that ACE has taken a bigger hit than the DCMS overall as it has already made significant savings in the recent past.

Francis Reid, retired theatreworker and now a theatregoer, concertgoer and museum visitor
I sincerely hope that the brunt of the impact will be felt by the back office rather than the artists. It is arguable that arts administration has gone from minimum through optimum to maximum, and now could feasibly retrench to a sustainable optimum.

Paul Kelly, Cultural Futures
The arm’s length settlement appears to be being eroded, but there’s another issue, which is the misuse of the term ‘administration’ by Hunt and Vaizey. I am no fan of ACE, but when it works well much of what its staff does is not administration. ACE has long had the capacity to act as a sort of cultural version of Businesslink, giving the sector much needed professional advice and guidance, which I think much of the sector wants and needs, if only from time to time. So, the arts are being dealt a triple whammy: loss of ACE funding, an inevitable loss of Local Government funding and a loss of advisory services – just when they will need them most.

John Smith, General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union
We all knew that cuts were coming, but funding cuts of 14% in the first year mean that many organisations will really find it difficult to survive. We would have preferred to see the cuts spread out over a longer period of time to give the arts time to adjust. The MU has consistently argued that, at a time when the economy is struggling, it is illogical to cut an industry that has consistently maintained growth.

Rachel Tackley, President, Theatrical Management Association
“The UK arts are a huge success story, a source of national pride and the envy of the world. Every pound of public subsidy invested in the arts is returned three fold back into the public purse. In the process of turning £1 into £3 the arts engage, entertain and enrich the lives of millions of people. As recipients of public money we must, of course, share the burden of reducing the budget deficit, but to disinvest now in a lean, well run industry that makes a net contribution to our national debt seems short-sighted in the extreme.”

Gerry Morrissey, General Secretary, BECTU
It is vital that venues can continue to invest in new productions to keep their operations alive for the longer term. The arts make a tremendous contribution to the UK's economy; the sector has also seen significant investment via the Lottery. It would be criminal if venues were allowed to fail because of a rush to cut.

Caroline Miller, Director, Dance UK
Dance was expecting to shoulder our proportion of savings that have to be made, but the announcement that ACE funding has been cut by 29.6% is hugely worrying for dance and the arts as a whole. Such a deep cut, being made at such a rapid speed – almost half the savings have to be delivered in the first year – is bound to undermine all the recent success of the arts sector. The ACE cuts are just one strand in a vastly changed economic picture for the arts. These cuts are accompanied by numerous diminished funding sources, including local authority cuts, greatly diminished contributions from trusts and foundations, and less business sponsorship opportunities.
In the traditionally low paid dance sector, the problems are exacerbated by the savage cuts across other government departments which will impact hugely on the quality of dance professionals' living standards. We need ACE to be able to provide strong leadership and clear thinking. We are concerned that ACE will probably have to undergo another restructuring having just emerged from the last one, and this will compound an already difficult situation.

Nica Burns, President, Society of London Theatre
The British theatre industry is extremely well run, lean, highly successful, and creatively the best in the world. It makes an essential contribution to the cultural heart of the nation. For a current investment of £450 million via the Arts Council we generate over £3 billion for the UK economy. Whilst we accept the need for cuts like everyone else, 30% is very hard for us to bear and will undoubtedly cause long term damage. As we already raise large amounts in sponsorship and private investment, this public investment is not replaceable. Given the amount of money we return on investment in the theatre industry, cuts this severe are a poor business decision."

Mark Skipper, Chief Executive, Northern Ballet
The spending review announcement is pretty much what we expected, but it remains to be seen how ACE will in turn review its spending. The proposed initial cut of around 10% for 2011/12 will have a dramatic effect but further cuts in subsequent years would be seriously detrimental to the organisation and would have a dangerous impact on our ability to generate revenue. The creation of new work is fundamental to us: a lack of productions greatly reduces our capacity to generate income from our audiences. It is also likely that we would have to curtail the extent of our national touring.