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Darren Henley: local arts cuts are a bigger concern than Brexit

Arts Council England chief executive Darren Henley. Photo: Philippa Gedge
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Arts Council England chief executive Darren Henley has called the decline in local authority funding “the most immediate concern” for the sector.

He has also urged local councils to talk to the Arts Council before taking the axe to their arts budgets.

Henley said the decline in local council funding was more pressing than the impact of the EU referendum.

Speaking in Sunderland, he noted that many local authorities were making substantial cuts to their arts and culture funding.

Though he stressed that ACE understood the difficulties councils faced in a “tough era” for public finances, Henley said: “We urge [local authorities], before they reduce investment, to talk to us.”

He continued: “We cannot fill the gaps, our resources are finite. But we have shown consistently that where there is a will, there is a way.

“We can find ways to work together to ensure that there continues to be a bright future for art and culture.”

Henley revealed ACE was currently assessing reactions and concerns from the arts sector regarding the vote to leave the European Union in June.

But he said he was encouraged by recent suggestions in parliament that any lost EU funding for the arts may be replaced by the government.

The Arts Council has already said it is “hugely concerned” about any potential restrictions to the free movement of artists following a so-called Brexit.

In his speech, Henley said: “As yet, we don’t know the conditions governing our withdrawal from the EU. Meanwhile, it is business as usual, for us, as with the rest of the country.”

“So, in this light, I have to say that the most immediate concern to the sector continues to be the loss of local authority funding,” he added.

He also echoed his comments in June in the wake of the EU referendum, claiming the arts would have “vital roles to play in Britain’s post-referendum future”.

“It shows the world we are open for dialogue, and open for business,” he said.

Earlier this week, MPs launched an inquiry into the effect Brexit is likely to have on the industry.

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