ACE concerned as survey reveals spending decline.
A decline in local authority arts spending will have a major impact on arts delivery and development across England and Wales, according to a spending survey conducted by nalgao, the National Association of Local Government Arts Officers. The survey reported in nalgaos Local Authority Budget Settlement Assessment Report 2007/08 reveals that, whilst the decline in arts spending has slowed somewhat in comparison to last year, the sector remains vulnerable, and there has been a "steady decline in local authority arts services", alongside a "continual erosion of funds in the majority of authorities, and a growing disparity between the strong providers and the rest."
The spending survey, which took place in association with Arts Council England (ACE) and the Arts Council of Wales, took account of 76 local authorities, representing 18% of all such in England and Wales. The report found that, of the authorities questioned, 65% have suffered a real term cut in arts provision for 2007/08, with 79% seeing a similar decline in arts spending over the past two years. The report also notes a decrease in partnership funding for arts services and major projects, whilst finding that four local authorities are to cut their arts services completely, adding to the 25 that have already cut their services in the last four years.
nalgao Chair, Su Isherwood, said of the findings, This is the fourth time we have conducted such a survey, and the results continue to show that arts services are finding it harder and harder, with some disappearing completely. Part of the problem is that arts provision is non-statutory, and with authorities under pressure the first question many of them ask us is: Do we have to?, and if they dont, they wont. This is despite the fact that arts services represent tremendous value for money in terms of leverage. The surveys results show that the arts spend by local authorities accounts for over three times its initial investment for the arts in leverage funding from other sources, with a return of over £3 for every £1 spent.
A spokesperson from ACE stated that they were very concerned with the surveys findings but noted the survey was based on a relatively small sample of authorities from which to draw fully confident conclusions.
Rejecting allegations that, by dropping local authority partnership agreements earlier this year ACE has made it harder for local authority arts providers to function effectively, David Brownlee, Local Government Strategy Advisor for Arts Council England, said, Joint working between Arts Council England and local authorities has already been instrumental in encouraging more innovative, ambitious and creative thinking around arts provision. We remain committed to working closely with local authorities, strategically and at senior level, to ensure that the arts are truly placed at the centre of local and regional planning.
ACE has been working with the Local Government Association towards a new published agreement on joint priorities for the arts, projected to be ready by early 2008.