Arts organisations in Dorset could be facing a round of funding cuts from their local council, and have warned that the proposed reductions could result in the region losing valuable cultural investment.
Dorset Council is considering a series of changes to its arts grants, which include the option to cut grants to all funded organisations by 10%.
Despite including an option to maintain current funding levels, the council admitted that this scenario is not a realistic choice.
Those affected include the Dorchester-based Arts Development Company, which receives £127,000 annually, and Dorchester Arts centre, which gets £33,954, in addition to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, which receives more than £66,000 each year from the council.
Others include the Marine Theatre in Lyme Regis and community company Sherborne Arts Link.
They have warned that a reduction in the local authority subsidy they receive – which for some is their primary source of support – would make it significantly harder for them to attract further funding.
Several organisations attended a cabinet meeting on November 5 to make their case.
According to the Dorset Echo, Sarah James, chief executive of the Arts Development Company, said: “For every £1 invested in by the council, £4.80 of new money comes into Dorset. The leverage value of the council’s current investment into Dorset arts and culture is substantial: more than £25 million from the Lottery alone in 2018/19.”
Councillor Nick Ireland added that making the cuts “does not make good business sense”, particularly when the savings would only amount to the “modest” sum of £160,000.
The council is also considering changing its funding arrangements to annual agreements, as opposed to three or five-year rounds, and these proposed changes factor in its list of potential options for future funding.
Following the cabinet meeting, the council agreed to extend the consultation period on the proposals from six to eight weeks, and said a report should be returned to the cabinet after that time detailing the consultation’s outcome.
Earlier this year, proposed cuts to Birmingham’s arts sector were scaled back following a consultation and protests in which more than 4,000 people signed a petition calling on the council to abandon plans for a 33% cut.
The reductions were eventually confirmed – but at half the original amount.
Despite this, many have warned of the effects of local authority cuts on regional arts in the UK.
In an open letter to prime minister Boris Johnson, National Campaign for the Arts chair Samuel West criticised the “devastating decline of public sector investment”, arguing that the arts have “taken a bigger hit than most in the drive for austerity”.