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Cuts: Arts Industry Reacts to ‘Dismaying’ 30% Cuts

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Further to today’s Comprehensive Spending Review (See Today’s Other News for full figures and analysis), leading figures from the arts industry have begun reacting to the 29.6% cuts passed on to the Arts Council, which distributes government money to its 850 arts RFOs (regularly funded organisations), amongst them more than 200 subsidised theatres and theatre companies.

21 Oct 2010: We’ve now updated this page with quotes from Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt and Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, and SOLT president Nica Burns, as well as more artistic directors from some of the UK’s leading subsidised theatres and other commentators. We’ll keep adding so do keep checking back...

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media & Sport - "Sorting out DCMS's budget settlement was an extraordinarily gruelling process ... Thank goodness I had been shadowing my brief in opposition for three years and given serious thought as to what any settlement needed to contain ... With respect to the overall settlement for DCMS, I have mixed emotions. No one comes into this job wanting to cut budgets and I feel incredibly angry about our economic inheritance ... I am relieved that, relative to other departments, DCMS did well. I have been able to limit the cuts to our core cultural and sporting organisations to 15% over four years, which after inflation will amount to a cash cut of 1-2% every year. When you add in the changes to the Lottery we have made since May, combined exchequer and Lottery funding to art is down even less at 12% ... In the course of our negotiations I said to the Treasury that any decisions we took needed to pass the 'grandchildren' test. Would we be able to look our grandchildren in the eye in the years ahead and say that in nightmarish circumstances we made the right decisions? Today I feel a little more confident that we will."

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Communication, Culture & the Creative Industries - "(This was a) very good settlement in a very tough spending round ... We wanted to protect what we regarded as the core of the Arts Council budget and that is what we have done by saying that the RFO budget should only go down by 15% ... (But) it has meant deeper cuts in other parts of the Arts Council's budget ... We fought a very vigorous campaign. The Secretary of State was absolutely adamant about the areas he wanted to protect. He was prepared to make tough decisions to show willingness to the Treasury, but he was also very resolute in showing the Treasury the lines that he wasn't going to cross. I think people should recognise that, in Jeremy Hunt, we had a Secretary of State who went in hard to fight for the arts."

Nica Burns, president of the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), West End theatre owner & producer - “The British theatre is an extremely well run, lean, highly successful industry, creatively the best in the world. It makes an essential contribution to the cultural heart of the nation. For a current investment of £450 million via the Arts Council, we generate over £3 billion for the UK economy. Whilst we accept the need for cuts like everyone else, 30% is very hard for us to bear and will undoubtedly cause long-term damage. As we already raise large amounts in sponsorship and private investment, this public investment is not replaceable. Given the amount of money we return on investment in the theatre industry, cuts this severe are a poor business decision."

Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of the National Theatre - “By any measure, the 30% cut to the Arts Council grant is dismaying. A large number of immensely valuable enterprises will stop stone dead. Obviously, in the context of massive cuts to public spending across the board, we must put our heads down and work with a 15% cut to the Arts Council’s regularly funded organisations, if the Arts Council is able to achieve this. However, it would be foolish to underestimate how tough the challenge will be for many excellent companies.

“It is ironic that these cuts come at a time when the performing arts have blossomed so successfully after 16 years of sustained investment. The economic benefits of a flourishing arts sector are visible everywhere, from the South Bank to Newcastle, Salford, Birmingham, Glasgow and beyond. Immediately after the formation of the coalition, (Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport) Jeremy Hunt promised he would lay the foundations for a future golden age of the arts. I hope he will be able over the coming weeks to mitigate the possibility that the current golden age will come to an abrupt end.”

Michael Boyd, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company - “Any cut is hard to take and 29.6% will hit the arts and audiences hard. We understand that cuts in Arts Council England funding to regularly funded organisations may be 15% over four years. This will be a big blow to theatres - especially those who will also be losing local authority funding - and audiences will be the poorer. We are concerned that the settlement for the Arts Council doesn’t allow it sufficient room to manoeuvre. We know cuts are likely to be front-loaded next year, but we hope they can be applied so as to allow time to plan for the future, reduce costs efficiently and find new sources of funding.

“We are pursuing ways to cut our costs and maximise our income, and will do what we can to support smaller organisations by continuing our collaborations with other artists, professional and amateur companies and drama schools.

“We will wait to hear more detail following the Arts Council’s national meeting on 25 October before we can say what impact the cuts will have on the work of the RSC. As a supporter of the principle of arm’s length funding, I find it disappointing that the Arts Council has taken a bigger hit than the DCMS overall as they've already made significant savings in the recent past.”

Tom Morris, artistic director of Bristol Old Vic - “Considering the strength of the cultural sector’s contribution to economic recovery, today’s Budget announcement is particularly disappointing. To cut an industry that has such a powerful record of quarter-on-quarter growth throughout the recession borders on idiocy; not just from a pragmatic point of view, but also in terms of the many immeasurable benefits that the cultural sector offers the nation. The sad truth is that these reforms will make the cultural industries less accessible to the wider community, both as consumers and creators of art in every medium.

“This fits depressingly into a wider picture of cut backs, in which the burden of sacrifice required by economic recovery falls disproportionately on the less advantaged in our society, and where the well off are allowed to keep their lifestyles and pleasures intact. Cuts of this scale are beyond short-sighted. The impact on the cultural sector, which plays such a strong part in the reputation and wellbeing of this country, will be enormous.’’

Christine Payne, General Secretary of actors’ union Equity - “Cuts of 15% across four years to frontline art providers, while very unwelcome, are better than we had been led to believe. In my view it is thanks in most part to the fantastic campaigning abilities of Equity members (with the union’s Save Our Theatre campaign) that we are not looking at cuts of 30% and above as we feared. There is no doubt that these cuts will hit theatres and other publically funded live performance hard and we will be monitoring closely how Arts Council England implements them.”

Rachel Tackley, president of the Theatrical Management Association (TMA) - “The UK arts are a huge success story, a source of national pride and the envy of the world. Every pound of public subsidy invested in the arts is returned three-fold back into the public purse. In the process of turning £1 into £3, the arts engage, entertain and enrich the lives of millions of people. As recipients of public money, we must, of course, share the burden of reducing the budget deficit, but to disinvest what now is a lean, well-run industry that makes a net contribution to our national debt seems short-sighted in the extreme.”

Louise de Winter, director of the National Campaign for the Arts (NCA) - “We understand the DCMS has asked the Arts Council to ensure that the overall cut to arts organisations in England is no more than 15% over the spending period. It’s a rum day when cuts of 15% can now be greeted with some measure of relief; we’re not saying these cuts won’t hurt, but they will be more manageable than was previously feared.

“It appears that the Government has listened to the warnings from senior figures in the cultural sector about the damage that would be sustained by the creative industries – the UK economy’s fastest growing sector - by a higher level of cut; and that the Chancellor recognises the value that the cultural and creative sector makes to the economy.

“However, Arts Council England, has received an overall budget cut of nearly 30% and has to make a 50% cut in their administrative costs, so further savings still have to be sought elsewhere in the budget. Coupled with the fact that ACE may be expected to take on additional responsibilities and functions following the abolition of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and UK Film Council, we are concerned how this might impact on the arts overall.

“Arts organisations will also have to take into consideration the impact of the higher level of cuts to local authority budgets of 28%. As non-statutory services, they will be affected by the squeeze felt by local authorities as they simultaneously have their budgets slashed and are prevented from raising extra revenue through the Council Tax. We are concerned that this impact will fall greatest on the smaller organisations, particularly in the regions and rural areas.”

Michael Oglesby, chairman of Bruntwood & philanthropist - "Today's cuts in public funding to the arts are disappointing but probably inevitable in the light of the current financial crisis. The arts must now work harder to find other sources of funding. Art over the centuries has existed because of patronage - corporate patrons are now more important than ever for securing the future of the arts in the UK.

“At Bruntwood we give 10% of the company's profits to arts, charitable and environmental causes. This includes the Bruntwood Playwriting Competition, Manchester International Festival and Tate Liverpool. In addition, all staff at Bruntwood give some of their time to support one of our arts or charitable projects. This support benefits the company in many ways, from creating team spirit to making the company one that people want to do business with."

Anthony Pins, partner at entertainment industry accountancy practice Nyman Libson Paul - "George Osborne has outlined his headline demands for cuts in the arts - 41% off backroom costs at the Arts Council and 15% off the money they give out. Of course we have yet to see the detail, but he clearly wants administration costs trimmed in order to preserve funding for the front line. While this is bad news for filing clerks, in difficult times it is good news for artists."

We will continue to update the Cuts Watch page as we gather more responses from theatres, industry leaders and arts organisations. Publicists can email contributions for publication to [email protected]. Please also add your views to User Comments at the bottom of stories.


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