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Arts Council of Wales chairman Dai Smith attacks ‘knuckled-headed’ Welsh government

Arts Council of Wales chair Dai Smith Arts Council of Wales chair Dai Smith
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Arts Council of Wales chairman Dai Smith has criticised the Welsh government for its “knuckle-headed, philistine” approach to the creative industries.

In an interview with BBC Wales, Smith – whose nine-year stint as chair comes to an end today (March 31) after three terms – claimed the government views the arts as elitist and condemned its decision to reduce the funding it gives to ACW.

“What we hear all the time is, ‘Times are hard, money’s short, austerity.’ Sorry, I don’t swallow that. We get something like 0.2% of the entire Welsh government budget in direct grant-in-aid,” Smith said, describing the arts as an “absolutely essential investment”.

ACW was hit with a 5% cut in December for 2016/17, meaning its budget will drop from £31.8 million to £30.3 million.

It follows a series of other cuts to ACW’s budget that have forced the funding body to make significant changes to the way it funds the arts.

In 2010, ACW cut its regularly funded portfolio by a third, dropping 31 organisations.

Smith went on to say that the Welsh government had prevented ACW from becoming involved in creative industry areas such as TV and film production, much of which are overseen by arms-length body Wales Screen.

“I don’t think government has got it right at all in the past few years when they tell the Arts Council, as they have, to keep away from the creative industries because that isn’t our job,” he told the BBC.

“And there are some parts of government ministerial office which seem incapable of understanding that cooperation and partnership is the name of the game, not chivvying and ordering people about and sometimes getting it wrong in a knuckle-headed, philistine fashion,” he added.

The latest ACW funding round will see large organisations such as Wales Millennium Centre and Welsh National Opera receive 3.5% cuts from April, however smaller companies in ACW’s portfolio – those receiving less than £150,000 – will be protected from any reductions.

The Welsh government declined to comment.

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