Arts cuts will still be ‘hugely damaging’, warns Dugher

Michael Dugher. Photo: Anthony Mckeown Michael Dugher. Photo: Anthony Mckeown
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Arts and culture in the UK still faces “hugely damaging” cuts over the next four years despite the government increasing arts council funding, shadow culture secretary Michael Dugher has claimed.

The Labour MP, who is in charge of the party’s culture, media and sport policies, said the government’s newly announced cuts to local authority grants will have a “massive impact” on the arts.

As part of the spending review, announced on November 25, the Department for Communities and Local Government now has to make “overall resource savings” of 29% by 2020 – with the local government grant to be reduced by £6.1 billion.

However, chancellor George Osborne announced that Arts Council England will be protected over the next five years, with its funding increased by £10 million each year until 2020.

Speaking at a BECTU event on Labour’s cultural policies, Dugher described the spending review as “a set of U-turns”, and referenced the cuts to arts funding made by the Conservative-led government over the past five years.

“Their MPs were cheering things that Labour has been calling for, that their side has been completely in opposition on,” he said.

Highlighting the “huge cuts” the Conservative government made to local government budgets, Dugher continued: “They’ve done what this government has done repeatedly in the last few years: they’ve dressed it up as ‘cuts for town hall bosses’.”

He added: “That’s about libraries, museums, theatres, galleries; that is about arts and culture in my constituency and constituencies all over the country. There were big, big cuts today in DCLG, and that will have a hugely damaging impact, in my view, on the sector and the things that we care about.”

He added: “They’re doing something like 30% real-terms cuts at DCLG for local authorities. Given all the cuts that they’ve made already in the last few years, that will have a massive impact on our sector.”

Earlier this week, Dugher responded cautiously to the government’s increased arts funding, claiming that “the devil is always in the detail”.