Local authority funding for theatres in England and Wales fell by 6.3% in 2011/12, according to newly released government data.
The figure is revealed in Local Authority Revenue Expenditure and Financing in England: 2011 to 2012 Final Out-turn, which also shows that – over the same period – councils’ overall net spend on culture has fallen by £250 million, or 7.8%, between 2010/11 and 2011/12.
Within this, net spend on ‘theatres and public entertainment’ has dropped by more than £10 million (6.3%) and spending on arts development and support has dropped by nearly £18 million (14.7%).
Over the same period, total other income (non-council income) for council-supported theatres also fell, by £13.4 million (7.4%).
The results were backed up by figures in a separate report, published last month by Arts Council England, which combined data from its regularly funded organisations. ACE’s figures – reported in Regularly Funded Organisations: Key Data from the 2011/12 Annual Submission – revealed a 9% drop in ACE subsidy over the period and a 9% reduction in local authority support for ACE-funded organisations.
Despite this, overall income at RFOs increased by 1%, largely due to a big increase in earned income (such as box office), which was up by more than £40 million. The fall in public subsidy does not yet appear to have affected spend on artistic programming, which was 4% up, however, marketing spend is slightly down (1%) and education spend has taken a significant hit (down 9%).
David Brownlee, general manager of the Theatrical Management Association, said: “Arts Council England’s annual submission figures demonstrate how flexible and entrepreneurial arts organisations have been in dealing with cuts to public funding. However, it would be extremely naive to think that it is possible to continue to increase earned income at the rate we saw in 2011/12 given the current financial climate. Further cuts in local or national funding will force theatres to take incredibly difficult decisions around reductions in posts, services or programme.
“The figures for local government theatres show that for every £1 of local government investment cut last year, a further £1.27 of income from other sources was lost. The figures do not record the further impact of cuts in theatre provision on local economies through reduction in spend on related retail, restaurants and parking. For theatres to effectively play their part in economic recovery on a local and national basis, the current levels of public funding must be sustained.”
Neither report includes figures relating to more recent cuts, such as the proposed 100% cut to arts funding by Newcastle City Council.