The future looks bright for culture on the continent, but the Autumn Statement provided no such solace for the UK, says Liz Hill.
One of the most read stories we have tweeted from @ArtsPro recently was a link to an article in the French publication ‘Le Journal des Arts’ – in French – reporting the announcement by German Culture Minister, Bernd Neumann, that at a time when his Government is about to introduce overall budget cuts of 3.1%, the culture budget will see an 8% increase next year. He described the financing of culture as not so much a subsidy but “an indispensible investment in the future of our society”. Perhaps the interest of our (apparently numerous) French-speaking readers was particularly aroused due to timing of the announcement. We tweeted this just a few days after England’s Culture Minister, Maria Miller, went on the record in the Evening Standard boasting proudly that frontline arts organisations would have their budgets cut by no more than 15% over the next four years and that “over this Parliament’s lifetime, we will still be investing some £2.9bn in the arts.” According to Le Journal des Arts, the annual culture budget in Germany is 1.3bn Euros, and in France is 2.4bn Euros, so that puts Miller’s remarks into some kind of perspective. Time to move to Germany, perhaps?
Our Government, of course, holds the view that generating philanthropic income is as easy as ABC. “Philanthropy is not finite but infinite if you know how to go about accessing it!” according to Peter Phillips (P3), who, as a Council member of Arts Council England, should really know better than to encourage the DCMS to promulgate such a notion, particularly at a time when charitable donations are at a 30-year low (P3). In reality, the only glimmer of hope on the horizon at the moment is the unlikely strength of Camelot’s Lottery ticket sales (P6). These may be helping to top up the arts coffers, but do little to offer a solid funding base to organisations needing the stability that project-based Lottery funding was never set up to provide.
The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement this week provided no solace. “Permanent reductions to current spending” are being pursued with vigour and cuts to departmental budgets are being brought forward to “smooth the path to further reductions from 2015/16 onwards”. The timing and breakdown of savings by department will be announced in the first half of next year, so for now, let’s eat, drink and be merry as we approach the Christmas season – for tomorrow we may cry.
Wishing you a festive break. Frohe Weihnachten!