£19m cuts could harm frontline arts – ACE

by -

Arts Council England has warned that it cannot guarantee that the £19 million of savings it has been asked to make by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will not be passed on to frontline cultural organisations.

While all DCMS bodies have been asked to make 3% savings, ACE has been told to make a further £5 million of cuts - raising its percentage savings to around 4%.

Speaking following the announcement, ACE chair Liz Forgan said that the organisation did not understand why it had been asked to make greater savings than other DCMS-funded bodies.

"We all knew this year would be tough," she said. "We do not understand why we have received a higher percentage cut than other DCMS funded bodies. Making cuts within the financial year is very difficult. We will now need to carefully assess what this figure of £19 million means. The arts council has already trimmed its own budgets by £4 million in 2010/11 so this takes our total reduction this year to £23 million.

"We will do our utmost to minimise the impact on the frontline but we cannot guarantee that there will be no effect. Only £23 million (5%) of our overall grant-in-aid budget goes on running costs so the vast bulk of our income goes straight to art. It would therefore be impossible to meet a cut of this size from running costs alone."

The DCMS has indicated that it will allow ACE to access its historic reserves to help meet the costs of the cuts. However, Forgan added: "Use of our historic reserves, which the department has not allowed us to use to date, will have to be agreed with our trustees and the Charity Commission and their use will need to be in the best interests of the arts.

"What is most important is that we do our best to protect art and artists and that we get our decisions out as quickly as possible to give our organisations a chance to plan. We have a tough Spending Review ahead so we need to work closely with our ministers and our arts organisations to make the best possible case."

For more on this story see this week's print edition of The Stage.