Local arts projects working in areas of England with low levels of cultural participation will be looking to partnership funding to support their ambitions as Arts Council England cuts funding.

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Transported: new funding will extend its work in Boston Borough and South Holland, Lincolnshire

Paul Floyd Blake

Only £5.2m will be distributed through the new phase of funding awards for Arts Council England’s (ACE) flagship Creative People and Places (CPP) programme, compared with £15.9m when the scheme was launched in 2012. ACE is awarding grants to six of the seven consortia that delivered the first round of CPP activity in 2012-15, to build on their work over the next three years. But these projects will have to make do with up to 70% less funding, while Ideas Test in Swale and Medway will receive no funding.

Projects funded in the second round of CPP in 2013 will be able to apply for £5m to continue their work next year – down from £20m that was available to them two years ago. The value of the new funding available to the third round of CPP projects is yet to be announced.

The £37m CPP scheme was set up to deliver a programme of activity that would enable people from places of least engagement to experience and be inspired by the arts, with communities themselves being empowered to take the lead in shaping local arts provision.

The extent of budget cuts to the scheme has come as a surprise given widespread acknowledgement of its role in England’s regions. The Warwick Commission on Cultural Value singled out the CPP initiative for specific praise, saying: “There is a general need for public funders to more proactively fashion investment strategies and interventions that are more responsive to local needs and demand, to talent from across the country, and to natural organic growth in the vibrancy of our towns and cities.” Furthermore, the scheme is Lottery funded at a time when Lottery revenues to the arts are at an all-time high.

The building of long-term collaborations between local communities and arts organisations, museums, libraries, local authorities and the private sector is a key objective for the scheme, and the consortia that have been most successful at doing this will be best placed to survive the sharp fall in ACE funding.

Funding for bait, the CPP scheme led by the Woodhorn Charitable Trust in south Northumberland, will fall from £2.5m to just £1m, but the organisation is upbeat in its reaction to the news. A spokesperson for bait told AP: “The impact of the work has now been proven, with a clear evidence base of how we are able to reach people in this area. This is recognised by our partners and by the Arts Council, which is why we have been offered the opportunity to develop the bait programme into a new phase until 2019.” Keith Merrin, Director of the Woodhorn Charitable Trust and Chair of the bait consortium board, said: “We’ll be working over the coming months to plan for the transition into this new phase and will keep in touch with partners as we develop these plans. We understand that the grant offer from Arts Council is subject to attracting additional investment from other sources, we welcome partnerships who can help us realise this.”

The Transported scheme in South East Lincolnshire is set to lose £1.8m, but Programme Director Nick Jones points to the impact of their partnerships: “Our work with private sector companies, including art on lorries, has been an inspiration to us and them at the potential value arts can offer the private sector. Boston Borough Council have embraced the opportunity to work with Transported to develop exciting and ambitious plans for public festivals that harness high levels of participation and celebrate local history, especially exciting in the run up to the Mayflower 400 international celebration, of which Boston is an important element.”

Liz Hill