ACE warns arts sector it could face cuts of up to £14 million in 2010

The cultural sector is bracing itself for more financial upheaval, after Arts Council England revealed it is preparing for up to £14 million of cuts to its 2010 funding package from government.

As revealed by The Stage in January, culture secretary Andy Burnham has previously warned that the arts would not be “immune” from a government savings drive in response to the global financial crisis.

Cuts across unprotected government agencies, such as the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, are expected when Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling announces his second Budget on April 22.

In light of this, ACE has prepared for three scenarios – in the expectation that cuts could be passed onto it from DCMS – for a 1.5%, 2.5% or 3% drop in its third and final year of allocated funding in 2010/11. These would equate to cuts of £7 million, £9.4 million and £14 million to ACE’s £467 million budget for the third year.

If the worst case scenario – a £14 million cut – were enacted – it would all but wipe out any real terms gains made in government arts funding over the current three-year spending period.

When James Purnell announced the uplift of government funding for the arts in October 2007, much of the extra £20 million above inflation was focussed in the final year of the three-year term. A £14 million cut would reduce the settlement to nearer inflationary stand-still funding.

A spokesperson for ACE said that it would look to sustain funding to its current portfolio of organisations and it would more likely be new schemes and initiatives that would suffer if cuts have to be made.

The spokesperson added: “DCMS has asked us to look at a number of different scenarios and these are the three we have modelled. It is very broad-based at the moment and is certainly not down to the level of [decisions about] individual organisations.”

There are also fears that any cuts made now could have a significant impact on future levels of funding beyond 2010/11, since new spending rounds could use the reduced level from 2010/11 as its base mark for ACE allocation, rather than the original level of £467 million.

* Listen to Culture Secretary Andy Burnham’s original warnings about arts funding on The Stage Podcast, available now on our website or in iTunes

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The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London. Photo: Noel Foster