Arts Council annual report reveals 6% decline in spending

Michael Quinn

Arts Council England spent more than £588 million of public money in support of the arts in 2010/11 – down from £625 million in 2009/10 – according to its newly published annual report.

Despite the recession and a fall of £19 million in funding from central government, ACE chair Dame Liz Forgan claimed “the arts in England continued to exude confidence and creativity” during a year in which theatre “whether on the West End stage, in regional theatres or invading boiler rooms and basements in site-specific experiments, has never flourished more vigorously”.

With funding from the National Lottery and other income included, ACE’s total income for the year was £627.6 million. Its total expenditure was 10.2% lower at £588 million, although cuts to its regularly funded organisations, which collectively received £351 million, were kept to an across-the-board minimum of 0.5%. RFOs received the equivalent of 59.7% of all funding dispensed by ACE during the year.

Around £51 million was distributed through more than 2,000 awards through the Grants for the Arts open-access programme, with £41 million invested in development, and £38.1 million in Creativity, Culture and Education, the ACE-created organisation aimed at encouraging creative learning for children and families.

An additional £89 million spending on “strategic initiatives” was 5.9% higher than in 2009/10.

With £190.2 million, London retained the lion’s share of funding distributed through nine regional offices, with the East’s £11.6 million marking it out as the smallest beneficiary.

Although the report covers the year prior to the initial impact of the coalition government’s Comprehensive Spending Review (in which ACE’s funding was cut by nearly 30% in real terms), chief executive Alan Davey said the body had been forced to make “extraordinarily difficult decisions” during the year, and that despite limiting “the cut to the budget from which we fund arts organisations to 15%… there are good arts organisations across the country now facing tough decisions”.

In November 2010, ACE published Achieving Great Art for Everyone, its strategic plan for the coming decade, and in March 2011 announced the creation of a new National Portfolio of organisations (which came into operation last month). Described by Davey as “an historic moment”, the move saw funding axed from 206 companies – including London’s Riverside Studios, Derby Theatre, Exeter Northcott, and touring company Shared Experience – with more than 100 new organisations due to receive regular ACE regular funding for the first time. In all, the number of regular grant-aided clients will fall from 848 to 696.

ACE ended the year with 21% fewer staff at an estimated saving of £6.5 million. Two leading figures – chief executive Alan Davey and chief operating officer Althea Efunshile received total remuneration of £178,000 and £160,000 respectively.

Government funding for ACE will continue to fall over the next three years, with the allocation for 2014/15 expected to be £349.4 million.

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