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Arts hit with £14m local funding cuts in 2016/17

Bath. Photo: Andrew Desmond/Shutterstock Bath has been particularly hard hit by local funding cuts. Photo: Andrew Desmond/Shutterstock
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Local authority funding for national portfolio organisations has fallen by £14 million in the past year, according to new data from Arts Council England.

The 649 applicable organisations in ACE’s portfolio received £113.3 million in funding from local councils in 2016/17, down 11% from £127.5 million the previous year.

The findings come as it is revealed that Bristol’s Old Vic Theatre will have its funding from the city council slashed by two thirds from April 2018.

Earlier this month, the 2017 Arts Index found that local government funding had plummeted by more than a third in the past decade, falling more than any other indicator of the sector’s health.

The headline statistics from ACE’s annual submission data shows that local authority funding made up 6.8% of the portfolio’s total income for the year, compared to the 7.7% it made up in 2015/16.

The portfolio includes 160 theatre organisations, which in turn saw a 6% year-on-year decrease in local authority support, meaning that council funding made up just 2.2% of their overall income in 2016/17.

Regionally, theatres in the West Midlands received the smallest proportion of their income from local authorities last year. Just 0.9% of their total income came from local government, the joint smallest percentage of any region in England. The area also weathered the biggest annual drop in council funding, losing £800,000 in 2016/17.

This tallies with figures released in 2016 by the Labour Party, which claimed that the West Midlands had seen the biggest hit to local funding of anywhere in the country over the past six years.

It lost £24 million in council funding between 2010/11 and 2015/16, the statistics showed, and contributed to a loss of £165 million across the whole country during that same time frame.

Like the West Midlands, London theatres also received just 0.9% of their total income from council sources. However, in cash terms this still equates to £2 million in 2016/17, which is one of the highest figures nationwide. The capital also hosts the highest number of theatre organisations in the portfolio: 69.

Theatre organisations in the North West received the largest percentage of their total income from local councils, coming in at 7.7% – higher than the overall NPO average – and equating to £2.1 million.

While local government funding decreased, the overall income of NPOs in 2016/17 increased – from £1.64 billion in 15/16 to £1.66 billion in 16/17.

Total income for NPO theatres also increased in the past year, from £511.8 million to £531.6 million.

The vast majority (66%) of theatres’ income in 2016/17 came from earned revenue, such as box office. This is higher than the figure for the portfolio as a whole, which received 52.4% of its money from earnings.

Samuel West, chair of the National Campaign for the Arts, said: “These figures are depressing but they are far from surprising.

“The NCA’s own analysis showed a 37% fall in local authority funding for the arts in real terms between 2009/10 and 2015/16. Cuts to Arts Council NPOs are large and significant, but still only a fraction of those being made to overall local authority funding of arts and museums.”

He added: “All is not gloom. There are still some excellent local authorities who are doing everything they can to keep the arts at the heart of their communities, and to enjoy the cultural, social, educational and economic benefit they bring.”

A spokeswoman from Arts Council England said: “The decline of local government funding remains the biggest risk to the health of the publicly funded cultural sector. We are continuing our work with National Portfolio Organisations to support them as they develop their resilience and as ever we will work closely with organisations facing financial challenges.”

The full data set for the 2016/17 annual submissions will be published in April 2018. Headline statistics can be downloaded here.

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