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English councils cite the ongoing recovery from Covid-19 as driving both increases and decreases in their budgets.

Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery
Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery is owned by Kirklees Council

Jon Davis, Kirklees libraries

More than half of England’s local authorities increased their culture and heritage budget this year, according to official data.

ArtsProfessional recently reported that the overall budget for culture and heritage grew for the second consecutive year, a 6.9% increase on 2020/21.

304 councils submitted their culture and heritage budgets for 2021/22 budgets to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. 178 reported an increase and 126 confirmed a smaller budget, with just four councils budgeting the same as last year.


We asked some local authorities to explain the reasons behind the changes to their budgets.

Individual budget increases were attributed to upcoming one-off arts events, the development of new arts spaces, or the ongoing recovery from Covid-19.

Lost ticket sales and the closing of venues due to the pandemic drove budget cuts. 

Bath and North East Somerset Council is the only council to report a negative budget of -£4.8m for the 2021/22 year. It did not respond to a request for comment.

Additional arts investments

Councils reporting budget increases are looking to support cultural events that boost the local area. 

Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire said its additional arts investment was due to a “strategic commitment to place-based cultural development across the district”.

Part of its £1.8m budget will go towards upcoming arts events, including biennial textiles festival Woven in Kirklees and research and development into its planned Year of Music 2023.

Kirklees’ culture and heritage budget increase is partly due to a one-off Covid recovery support package.

The additional £103,000 will be spent on extra staff for local museums, galleries and country parks to support the increased demand experienced during the pandemic.

The council plans to re-establish a learning programme, including heritage projects in its museums for schools.

It will also develop a new museum and gallery in Huddersfield.

Outside of London, Birmingham has the biggest budget for culture and heritage in 2021/22, totalling £14.3m.

This increase will facilitate the cultural events set to coincide with next year’s Commonwealth Games.

The Birmingham 2022 Cultural Programme has announced a six-month-long cultural festival to run between March and August.

It is currently seeking commissions for local artists to create art for the sporting event, accepting submissions across any art form.

Continued local support

Councils confirming budget cuts remain confident they can support culture in their local areas.

The decrease in Bury Council’s budget reflects funding awarded last year tied to its title as the inaugural Greater Manchester Town of Culture.

The council allocated £205,000 to support the award across two years, £120,000 in 2020/21 and £85,000 in 2021/22.

Despite the budget cut, the council says it will continue to support programming activity and enhance its communications around culture.

It will also develop a culture strategy for the borough to provide a legacy of the Town of Culture status.

Sandwell Council confirmed a £7,000 budget reduction is due to “expected additional income” at its sites.

Runnymede Council's culture and heritage budget was reported to the Government as £29,000, down from £256,000 in 2020/21.

The Surrey-based council initially told ArtsProfessional it does not use culture and heritage as a descripton for budgets, but later confirmed its net budget for museums is £225,000 for the forthcoming year.