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ACE Prepares for ‘Worst Case’ £14m Cuts in 2010

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Ahead of Budget Day on 22 April, Arts Council England (ACE) is preparing for a “worst case scenario” three percent reduction in its already allocated budget of £467 million for the 2010/2011 financial year – wiping some £14 million in subsidy to the theatres and other organisations that ACE regularly funds.

In order to pay for the various recession aid packages being implemented, unprotected Government agencies - including the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which supplies ACE – have been warned that they need to collectively claw back £5 billion.

ACE’s management team – led by chief executive Alan Davey and newly appointed chair, Dame Liz Forgan – have modelled three possible likely scenarios: of 1.5, 2.5 and 3 percent cuts, equalling losses of £7 million, £9.4 million and £14 million, respectively. This would be in addition to an already enforced 15 percent reduction in ACE’s running costs, which has resulted in 139 redundancies to the organisation’s body of 622 staff by next April (See News, 25 Feb 2009).

The £467 million was awarded to ACE at the Government’s last three-year spending review (covering the period from 2008/9 to 2010/11) and subsequently – and highly controversially - doled out last January when, despite an unexpectedly robust DCMS settlement, ACE suspended annual funding to nearly 200 organisations (See News, 17 Jan 2008).

ACE is the highest funded organisation in the DCMS remit, accounting for some 22 percent of its £2 billion budget. Speaking at a press lunch today, Dame Liz said that ACE has and will continue to lobby hard to maintain the “utterly vital” current levels of funding for the arts, arguing that “you can’t cut money out of the arts without it really showing” and that, a comparatively small saving for the Government now, could cause a “great deal” of damage and cost much more to repair down the line.

In the current back-loaded three-year cycle, ACE has already paid out £431 million in Year 1 (2008/9) and £445 million in the current Year 2 (2009/10). If the anticipated reduction comes to pass, it will mark the first time that ACE budgets have been altered mid-way through an allocation period. Dame Liz said, should the worst case scenario occur, ACE’s priority will be to protect as many of its regularly funded organisations as possible, at the expense of funding any new initiatives.

- by Terri Paddock


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