London Councils to cull capital’s £3m arts support budget

Natalie Woolman

London Councils is to axe its entire £3 million financial support for the arts across the capital.

Theatre companies that will be affected include Theatre Royal Stratford East, Tamasha Theatre Company, the Tricycle Theatre and Clean Break.

The umbrella body for local authorities in the capital, London Councils raises money from individual boroughs which is then allocated to voluntary sector projects across the city.

It currently spends £3.14 million a year on provision related to culture, tourism and the 2012 Olympics.

London Councils’ new list of strategic priorities will result in the majority of the cultural services it supports losing all of their funding by the end of June 2011.

Projects that will cease next summer include the promotion of access to cultural activities across the city, on which London Councils currently spends £1 million per annum. Another victim will be spending on education and outreach programmes for disadvantaged children, which it currently funds to the tune of £960,000.

A handful of arts services will be allowed to run until the end of their commission, but these will all stop by the end of January 2013.

As London Councils has decided that culture services should be local rather than city-wide, in theory individual London borough councils could continue to support these activities. However, there is no statutory requirement that they do so.

A spokesman for London Councils said: “It has been a natural progression with all the changes in powers that local authorities are being given and the new localism bill. It is unfortunate that, given the current situation, things are happening far, far more quickly than people would have wanted them to and unfortunately there are going to be casualties.”

Commenting on the theatres that will be affected by the cuts, Charlotte Jones, chief executive of the Independent Theatre Council, said she thought London Councils had made a “very wrong decision”.

Speaking about these companies, she added: “If you were looking for a list of the most instrumentally valuable, far-reaching, inclusive arts provision in the capital, this would be it.”

Lucy Perman, executive director of Clean Break, which currently receives more than £55,000 a year from London Councils, added: “We work on average with at least 25 of the 33 London boroughs, which does make our reach genuinely pan-London, from inner London boroughs to the far outer London boroughs, and the beauty of the funding means that it is supporting genuinely pan-London activity and it is not a postcode lottery.”

An Arts Council England spokesman said that the organisation was disappointed to learn of London Councils’ decision to discontinue its culture funding.

“Local authorities in London have a long and honourable tradition of working collectively to deliver services to some of the capital’s most disadvantaged communities and this scheme will be missed,” he said.

“We will work to ensure that, as these funds are returned to decision-making at a more local level, politicians and the public understand the value of local authority support to the arts and the value of the arts to local civic life.”

The decision follows the news of cuts to local council budgets across England, which the Local Government Association said would equate to a 12.1% cut in central government funding for local authority services next year. The LGA said this would “inevitably” mean cuts to services.

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