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Cost-saving proposals, which include removing the council’s arts development functions, no longer funding a local festival and externalising Russell Cotes museum, form part of wider measures totalling £41m over four years.

Russell Cotes Art Gallery and Museum
Russell Cotes Art Gallery and Museum could become an independent charity

Ethan Doyle White / CC BY-SA 4.0

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council is planning a series of cuts to arts and culture services in its 2024/25 budget and medium-term finance plan to 2028.

The council, which is facing a structural £30m deficit at the end of this financial year, is facing “one of the most precarious” financial positions of local authorities in the UK”, according to its Chief Executive.

The proposed cuts to arts and culture services stand at around £1.7m through to 2028 and form part of wider savings and additional income generational proposals totalling £41m.


BCP Council’s draft budget for 2024/25 includes operational savings in cultural activity of £250,000 and operational savings in libraries of £500,000. 

The council is set to review its library services and will discuss launching a public consultation into the future of its 24 libraries at the next council meeting on 7 February.

The 2024/25 budget also notes plans to externalise Russell Cotes, an art gallery and museum in Bournemouth, which would save £676,000.

The museum, which was set up as a charity in 1908 with the council as its sole trustee, is in the process of moving to become an independent charity. It is hoped the move, which is backed by the council, will help the Grade-II listed building secure more funding amid ongoing concerns over its physical condition. 

BCP Council’s medium-term finance plan includes removing the council’s arts development functions in 2026/27, saving £120,000 and ceasing support to the Arts by the Sea festival in the same financial year, saving £150,000.

It adds that beginning to charge for exhibitions at Poole Museum would generate £15,000 across financial years 2025/26 and 2026/27. The museum is currently closed as it undergoes restoration works.

“Making the necessary savings to achieve this balanced budget has required us to make some very difficult and painful choices,” Council Leader Vikki Slade said.

“BCP Council is facing acute pressures caused by years of austerity, recent high inflation and the exceptional demand faced by all local authorities, and other public services, at this time.

“We know how tough these proposals will be for our residents to hear but we have no alternative. We must deliver a budget that puts the council on a sustainable financial footing and avoids serious government interventions that we have seen in other parts of the country.”

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Cllr Andy Martin, 2023 BCP opposition representative for culture: “These cuts don’t make sense at all on any level. As well as being a world-class orchestra with a global reputation, BSO also does some incredible things in the local community, working with children, in local hospitals and care homes. In my view, the impact of the proposed cuts would be pretty catastrophic for the BSO's community work. It would be a terrible decision to cut funding to them, but also to the Lighthouse in Poole and organisations like Pavilion Dance.” Cllr Andy Martin, 2024 BCP Portfolio Holder for Culture: “We know a good culture and tourism offer plays an important part in creating a positive sense of pride in our three towns. Like many local authorities we are facing unprecedented financial challenges and at a time when we are having to look carefully at where the council spend its money - ensuring we maintain statutory services that our most vulnerable residents rely on - we also need to make sure we secure a sustainable financial future for the area."