Cuts: Arts Faces £66m Cuts Under Lib-Con CoalitionDate: 13 May 2010
Under the new Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition government that took the reins at Westminster yesterday, Conservative MP Jeremy Hunt has been appointed as Culture Secretary – and he has already signalled that the arts are in line for up to £66 million worth of cuts as part of the drive to reduce the national debt.
Hunt takes over the renamed Department of Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (formerly Department of Culture, Media and Sport) - or DCOMS for short - and has confirmed that the 2012 London Olympics are his key priority over the next two years.
All government departments are being asked to make cuts. In a TV interview with Newsnight, Hunt told the BBC that COMS would be looking to make savings across the board of £66 million. He has already asked his civil servants where they could cut back without affecting “front-line services”.
The news has already started a storm on micro-blogging service Twitter, with Marcus Romer, artistic director of award-winning touring company Pilot Theatre, leading the charge. His – oft re-tweeted – reminder, via the trending topic #artsfunding, that the arts is good for the economy notes that, as per recent Society of London Theatre (SOLT) statistics, “the amount of VAT from London Theatre tickets alone is greater than the entire ACE (Arts Council England) theatre subsidy for England”.
Despite the recession, in 2009 Theatreland experienced record attendances (more than 14 million attendances for the first time ever) and box office income (exceeding half a billion pounds) – equating to more than £75 million in VAT receipts for the government. Beyond that, according to SOLT, “the additional spend by theatregoers on things such as transport, restaurants and hotels will have provided vital stimulus for the London economy”. The results, and particularly the size of the increases, “achieved against a backdrop of economic recession, represent a stunning performance by the sector”.
ACE lost £4 million from its budget last year under the Labour Government. Swingeing cuts in 2008, which saw funding to 194 organisations withdrawn in full, prompted widespread protests within the arts sector.
Colin Tweedy, chief executive of Arts & Business, said today: "We welcome the appointment of Jeremy Hunt MP as the new Secretary of State for Culture and look forward to working alongside him and his colleagues to ensure the private sector can deliver the best for the cultural sector. We know all elements of our mixed economy model are currently under strain. As a consequence, the challenge for arts organisations, our challenge, and that of this new Government will be to make every public pound go further."
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