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Calls made for reform of local government funding system to avoid 'cherished services' being 'drastically scaled back or lost altogether'.

The exterior of Birmingham Rep Theatre
Birmingham Rep Theatre is one of many arts organisations across England affected by proposed council cuts

Ross Jukes/Birmingham Rep Theatre

More than a third of local authorities need to make cost savings across museums, galleries, and theatres, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said.

A survey by the organisation, which represents councils across England, found that 34 per cent reported the need to make cutbacks across arts and culture to try and balance the books.

Ahead of the Spring Budget, the LGA said the government will have to provide further funding to "address the growing financial crisis facing councils and local services". 


In January, the government provided £600m extra funding for councils across 2024/25 to help protect services, but the LGA says this is in the context of an estimated £4bn funding gap.

The survey found that most councils felt the extra money would help to some extent, but the majority (58 per cent) said the impact would be “small”.

In light of this, 85% of councils said they would still have to make cost savings to balance their 2024/25 budget.

In addition to a third of councils having to make cuts across arts and culture, more than half (55%) said cost savings would be needed in their sport and leisure service provision. 

Meanwhile, (48%) reported that cost savings would be needed within their library services, and (48%) reported that cost savings would be required in their parks and green spaces service provision.

Ahead of the General Election, the LGA called on all political parties to provide manifesto commitments to reform the entire system of funding local government so it can deliver all local services.

Birmingham City Council is among many local authorities proposing cuts to arts organisations as part of its budget for 2024/25. 

Under the proposals, all grants to its regularly funded arts organisations - including Arts Council England NPOs City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), Birmingham Rep Theatre, Birmingham Royal Ballet, IKON Gallery and Birmingham Opera Company - will be reduced by 50% this year before being completely removed in 2025/26.

Other local authorities proposing significant cuts include Somerset, Hampshire, Suffolk, Coventry, Bristol, Nottingham, and Leeds.

'Stark choices' 

Shaun Davies, LGA Chair, said: “Extra government funding will help councils this year, but acute funding pressures remain and are forcing many councils to make stark choices about what popular services to cut.

“This will not go unnoticed by our local communities. It means less potholes filled, more streetlights dimmed or turned off, and fewer library or leisure services.

“Without further funding, cost and demand pressures will continue to stretch council budgets to the limit and lead to more of the cherished services our communities rely on every day from having to be drastically scaled back or lost altogether as councils are increasingly forced to do more with less.”

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: "We recognise councils are facing challenges, and that is why we announced an additional £600m support package for councils across England, increasing their overall funding for the upcoming financial year to £64.7bn - a 7.5% increase in cash terms.

"This includes £500m of new funding for councils with responsibility for adult and children's social care, distributed through the social care grant. Councils are responsible for their own finances and setting council tax levels, but we have been clear they should be mindful of cost-of-living pressures while controlling any unnecessary or wasteful expenditures."