The autumn statement, which protected money to the arts but delivered a blow to local authorities, has drawn mixed responses.

Photo of Sir Peter Bazalgette
Sir Peter Bazalgette: "We can keep up our efforts to ensure everyone, everywhere in England benefits from Arts Council money.”
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Philippa Gedge 2013

Arts figures have given mixed responses to the spending review, which saw more money going to Arts Council England (ACE) but other sources of support for the arts hit hard.

Chair of Arts Council England Sir Peter Bazalgette has described the spending review settlement for ACE as “astonishing”. According to ACE it will result in a small cash terms increase of approximately £10m per annum up to 2019/20. Bazalgette said: “This settlement means we can keep up our efforts to ensure everyone, everywhere in England benefits from Arts Council money.”

But he also voiced concerns for local authorities, which will have their central grant slashed by £6.1bn by 2019/20. “We now need to understand the settlement for local authorities,” he said. “Our team across the country will be having place by place conversations.”

Quoting figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility, Chairman of the Local Government Association Lord Porter said that local government’s core funding will fall by 24% in real terms, but that devolved power and the abolition of the uniform business rate “will help councils try to mitigate some of the pressure they face”. With these increases in income, a 6.7% real terms reduction is expected.

Chief Executive of the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) John Kampfner was one of many to voice concerns about the effect of this cut on the arts, in particular for arts organisations outside of London. “We call upon national government, local authorities and the arts and creative sector to work more closely to ensure strong arts funding in the regions,” he said.

CIF has also raised concerns about the potential impact of the apprenticeship levy – a 0.5% tax on the payrolls of organisations that spend more than £3m on wages – on larger arts organisations. And about the £1.3bn investment in training teachers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the English Baccalaureate subjects, which they fear will accelerate the decline in arts teachers in schools. The number of arts subject teachers has already fallen by 11% since 2010, according to Kampfner.

Director of the Museums Association Sharon Heal said local authority cuts have already had a negative effect on the cultural sector and is “deeply concerned” about the impact of this cut on museums. “Museum closures, job losses and the introduction of charging are happening already,” she said. “Today’s spending review means that this trend is likely to grow.”

Strategic Director of Birmingham Arts Partnership Andy Howell agreed the cut to local authorities would prove “challenging”. He is keen to explore new financial models, to make “more innovative use of council assets to support culture”.

In his Spending Review statement on Wednesday, Chancellor George Osborne announced that the DCMS will have its administrative budget cut by 20% but that ACE and the national museums and galleries will be protected. The Government also committed to maintaining free entry to museums and galleries and will consider a new tax relief for exhibitions. Further support was announced for Hull City of Culture, Manchester Museum, Birmingham Dance Hub and the Burrell Collection, as well as £150m to help London museums build new storage facilities. The Factory in Manchester has been allocated £9m a year in revenue funding from 2018-19 and a further £20m has been pledged to expand the Great Exhibition of the North and create a legacy fund for it.  

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A photo of Frances Richens