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Culture spend by England councils tumbles by £8.8m this year

Bath. Photo: Andrew Desmond/Shutterstock The city of Bath – Bath and North East Somerset Council is proposing a 100% cut to funding. Photo: Andrew Desmond/Shutterstock
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Local authorities in England will spend £8.8 million less on culture this year, according to government figures that indicate shrinking nationwide arts budgets.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, authorities across England have allocated a total of £392 million on culture and heritage for 2018/19, compared to £400 million for the previous year.

The statistics claim that revenue expenditure by local authorities has tumbled more than £100 million since 2011/12, when it was £501 million. Local authorities include county and district councils, as well as metropolitan authorities such as city councils and London boroughs.

The continued reduction in arts funding at a local level has previously prompted warnings from the theatre sector about the impact it will have on regional organisations and grassroots activity.

HQ Theatres boss Stephen Hetherington warned there could be a “serious decline” in productions as a result of cuts.

In the latest statistics, shire counties including Cambridgeshire, Somerset and Lancashire, which control large areas and cover many rural communities, have allocated £26.3 million to culture and heritage this year.

This is £1.5 million less than the previous year, but represents almost a third of the same budget in 2010/11, which was £74 million.

Earlier this year, nationwide charity Arts Development UK was forced to shut its doors after 35 years due to council funding cuts.

The charity raised a significant part of its income through membership subscriptions from local authorities but said maintaining this had become increasingly difficult as budgets fell.

The latest UK Theatre box office figures saw both regional theatre attendance and ticket sales fall over the past year.

The body’s members, comprising more than 200 auditoria across the UK, took a reduced total of £469.8 million from ticket sales in 2017, down £1.9 million on the previous year.

The total number of tickets sold was also less than in 2016, falling 1.87% from 19 million to 18.7 million.

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