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Local authority arts funding ‘cut by more than £56m’

The Rubenstein Kiss at Nottingham Playhouse, which lost all of its local county council funding in 2014. Photo: Robert Day
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More than £56 million of arts funding has been cut by local councils in England since 2009, it has emerged.

The scale of local arts cuts was revealed by Arts Council England, which stressed it could not fill the resulting gap in subsidy for art forms including theatre, music, art and dance.

Analysis of government data by ACE revealed that, between 2009 and 2014, regular local government spending on the arts fell by £56.6 million to £454 million – a reduction of 11%. The figures exclude one-off grants.

When it comes to the performing arts, the total spend on theatres and public entertainment dropped by almost £15 million over the past four years, from £267 million in 2010/11 – where government data begins – to £253 million in 2013/14.

A number of high-profile organisations have lost significant funding from their local authorities, including Nottingham Playhouse, which lost 100% of its annual £94,500 county council subsidy in 2014.

Reductions in local arts funding have occurred against a backdrop of cuts to local government budgets, which have been reduced by 40% between 2010 and 2016.

In November, chancellor George Osborne revealed central government funding to local authorities would be cut by a further £6.1 billion over the next five years.

Responding to the decline in local arts funding, ACE chief executive Darren Henley said it could not substitute the “vital” local council arts funding.

He told The Stage: “Local authorities play a vital role in funding arts and culture across England. We recognise that many local authorities are facing significant financial pressures, and are having to make difficult decisions regarding their investment in art and culture.”

He continued: “While we cannot fill this gap in funding, we are already working in close partnership with many local authorities, finding ways in which we can jointly support art and culture at a local level.”

A local government association spokesman blamed sweeping cuts to council budgets for the loss in arts funding, as it meant that core services were taking priority.

He claimed: “Councils want to do everything they can to supports the arts. However, with local authorities having suffered a 40% reduction in core funding in the past five years and mandatory services like adult social care, children’s services and waste collection soaking up a bigger proportion of council funding, local authorities are having to make tough choices.”

When contacted by The Stage for comment, a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said councils “had to play their part” in tackling the deficit.

He said: “Local authorities play a vital role in promoting the arts and the positive impact they can have on people’s lives.

“We are ensuring they continue to do so, and councils will have almost £200 billion to spend on local services over the lifetime of this parliament.”

He continued: “Like the rest of the public sector, councils have to play their part in tackling the deficit and have worked hard over the past five years to deliver a better deal for local taxpayers, while public satisfaction with services has been maintained.”

This story was corrected on February 25 to reflect that Nottingham Playhouse only lost its annual subsidy by Nottinghamshire County Council, and remains funded by Nottingham City Council. It therefore did not lose all of its annual council subsidy, as was previously stated.

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