Senior arts administrators have been calculating the impact of the pre-Christmas announcement by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) of a freeze in government spending on the arts for the next three years. While museum funding received an above inflation rise of 4.4%, funding to Arts Council England (ACE) will be frozen at £412m annually until 2008.
The announcement has generated a war of words between ACE and the DCMS, interrupted only by a Christmas ceasefire. Sir Christopher Frayling, Chair of ACE said: ?The Arts Council is, of course, very disappointed ? in real terms, this is a cut to the arts of over £30m. It is extraordinary that the Government has chosen to undercut the very success it has helped to build since 1997.? Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell responded by pointing out that local government spending on culture was set to rise with an above inflation increase in funding for cultural services. She also highlighted ?huge increases in investment in the arts since 1997.? Jowell went on the offensive suggesting ACE had been selective in coming up with the £30m figure. She also suggested that ACE needed to look at efficiency savings. Writing in The Guardian newspaper, she noted, ?Every bureaucracy, no matter how benign, runs the risk of losing its edge, especially after increased funding.?
ACE is widely perceived as having lost out to the museum sector. An above inflation increase in funding for national museums? running costs was supplemented by a significant increase in the funding for the Renaissance in the Regions programme. However, the announcement did not receive universal approval from the museums sector. Mark Wood, Chair of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council described the announcement as a let down: ?We are very disappointed that regional museums are still not receiving the support they need and that there is not enough in this settlement to roll out Renaissance nationwide.? Christopher Frayling criticised the seesaw of cultural funding from the arts to museums. ?Regional museums did less well last time, so now they do better. This is no way to build our culture and throws into question the place of the arts and museums in the Government?s pecking order.?
The squeeze on arts funding in the DCMS spending plans was widely anticipated despite fierce lobbying from all quarters (see ArtsProfessional Issue 79, July 26). However, some specific initiatives were welcomed by the arts community, including grants of £5m each to Liverpool?s European Capital of Culture 2008 preparations and to the South Bank Centre.
Joan Bakewell, Chair of the National Campaign for the Arts (NCA) said, ?Robbing Peter to pay Paul is no way to create a sustainable arts sector and continue the good work that has been made possible throughout this government?s term. We rejoice that Museums have done so well. But that the performing arts should suffer what is a real cut in their funding is a cause for alarm and protest.? The NCA is planning a seminar on January 26 to allow the arts community to analyse and discuss the issues raised by the spending settlement. The seminar will also see the launch of the NCA?s Arts Manifesto ? which sets out the concerns of the arts world in advance of this spring?s widely anticipated general election. e: firstname.lastname@example.org