Concerns are mounting that non-statutory local authority services, including the arts, will be seen as an easy target for cuts
With councils across England facing a real terms average loss of grant of 7.25% a year for four years following the Spending Review, concerns are mounting that non-statutory local authority services, including the arts, will be seen as an easy target for cuts. To help local authorities respond to the loss of income, the Government is granting them greater financial freedoms and flexibility on local spending, and the ring-fencing of all revenue grants, with the exception of schools and public health, will end next year. There is a clear expectation from Department for Communities and Local Governments that councils will use their new autonomy to protect key frontline services, but whilst health, welfare and housing are all discussed in this context, arts services receive no mention in a Spending Review letter from Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to all local authority leaders. Somerset County Council has already announced a £43m package of cuts, despite protests, including a 100% cut to the arts budget (currently 0.04% of the Council’s spend), as well the loss of 1,500 council jobs and a review of library provision. Central Bedfordshire Council is planning to cut the funding for Bedfordshire Music completely from April 2012, sparking a campaign to protest against the decision. The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) has proposed a strategic review of the current operation of its grants scheme for the arts (which currently funds the Halle orchestra, the Royal Exchange theatre, Cornerhouse, the Octagon in Bolton, the Oldham Coliseum and Full Circle Arts, among others), as “the current scheme budget is not sustainable over the longer term”.