Relief as arts receive inflationary increase in spending review

Government arts cash settlement Gordon Brown’s first spending review as prime minister has been met with relief by the cultural sector after it was confirmed that Arts Council England would receive an inflationary increase in funding for the next three years.

Many within the industry had feared ACE would be hit by standstill funding or worse. However, Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling confirmed this week that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s allotment would increase from £1.68 billion to £2.21 billion in 2010/11, a settlement which he said “guarantees an inflation increase for the arts”.

The news has been greeted with huge relief by leading members of the arts industry who had been lobbying government as late as last Thursday in a bid to ensure that the cultural sector did not lose out. Figures such as Royal Opera House chief executive Tony Hall and Barbican Centre managing director Nicholas Kenyon were among arts chiefs who met Gordon Brown last week for final crunch talks about cash for the cultural sector. The result has been a 2.7% inflation level increase in DCMS funding, which the government has guaranteed will be passed onto the arts.

Hall described the settlement as “the best result we could have won”, while National Campaign for the Arts director Louise de Winter said the funding package was “very good news”.

She told The Stage: “We’d like to think that we made a strong case for arts funding and thankfully government has listened. There is still one small fly in the ointment though – the relief is slightly tempered by the Olympics issue – what the arts are still missing is the £137 million which was diverted to the Olympics.”

Organisations such as Equity, the NCA, the Theatrical Management Association and the Independent Theatre Council have been part of an extended campaign to secure arts funding after it emerged that the sector was facing the very real prospect of significant cuts to its government subsidy.

Equity general secretary Christine Payne said that this week’s announcement showed the “value of the campaign which Equity had undertaken over the last year”. She added: “Our campaign has not ended and we want to make sure that whatever goes to the DCMS and ACE, that theatre does not lose out.”

Meanwhile, ITC director Charlotte Jones said that she expected the sector to respond with resourcefulness to the increase in funding. She added: “Let’s not make the mistake of breathing a sigh of relief. Time to drive forward with increased energy and enthusiasm.”

ACE chair Christopher Frayling commented: “This is a very good result. We have campaigned long and hard for this settlement and in the context of a tough spending round, it is good to know that the government has listened to the case we put for the arts.

“This increase will allow us to build on the current excellent health of the arts in England. We now await the detail of our settlement, so that we can set a budget and inform arts organisations of their funding for 2008 to 2011 as quickly as possible.”

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