Research project

Funding Arts and Culture in a Time of Austerity
13 April, 2016

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Arts Council

“Find a way to keep faith with arts and culture”
Arts Council Chair urges local authorities as arts and culture funding falls

Sir Peter Bazalgette urged local authorities to work with the Arts Council to back local arts and culture in a speech today at the New Local Government Network Hub in London.

Addressing local authorities and members from local councils from across the country, the Arts Council ‘s Chair said: “We know you are under pressure. Let’s work together to develop new, creative and innovative solutions to sustain the vital cultural life of our communities. We’re in, if you’re in”.

He also remarked on the positive settlement for national arts funding in the Autumn Statement and the launch of the government’s White Paper for culture – the first of its kind for more than 50 years, which “reaffirms the importance of local authority funding in the national arts ecology.”

During the event he stated that “local authority budgets are under unprecedented pressure. In some areas significant cuts are being made to museums, libraries and the arts. We know that local authorities will be asked to find even more substantial savings in the years to come. It’s the biggest challenge arts and culture face at the moment”.

Also unveiled at the event was a new report by NLGN and the Arts Council, Funding Arts and Culture in an Age of Austerity. While local authorities are still the biggest funders of arts and culture in England, the report sets out the scale of the funding decline:


  • Local authority investment in arts/culture has declined by £236 million, 17% since 2010.
  • While English local government still spent £1.2 billion on arts and culture in 2014/15, the cuts remain significant and are likely to continue.
  • London boroughs saw the largest cuts in arts and culture spending; 19 per cent between 2010 and 2015.

In setting the scene, Bazalgette noted that many local authorities are already finding new ways to sustain arts and culture. Examples included partnerships with Higher Education institutions such as in Durham where the university is hosting an exhibition from the former Durham Light Museum’s collection. In other instances, local authorities are seeking new funding streams. Kent County Council has recently developed an innovative approach to procurement, whereby potential applicants for multi-million pound waste contracts are encouraged to consider how they can support arts and culture to deliver social value, opening up income streams for artists, and helping them find new ways to contribute to local life.

He reiterated that “while the Arts Council cannot replace all the funding lost from local authorities”, the organisation is already working in partnership with over 240 local authorities to help support them in sustaining arts and culture in their area in sharing ideas and best practice.

The Arts Council will also “continue to deploy funds in dynamic and imaginitive ways”, with examples including programmes such as Creative People and Places which invests in places with low levels of arts engagement such as Blackpool, South Tyneside and Nottinghamshire and the Creative Local growth Fund which brings together Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and other strategic bodies to support small and medium-sized enterprises in the creative and cultural sectors to grow and become more resilient.

He said that the Arts Council “will continue its drive to create a better balance of spending between London and the rest of England. Historically, 60% of Lottery funding was distributed outside London, and 40% within the capital. In 2015 this had shifted to 70% outside London and 30% inside. And in the next two years, we’re promising to push this to 75% and 25%. We are committed to continuing this trend with our Grant in Aid funding where currently 60% is invested outside the capital.”

Sir Peter Bazalgette added: “When you add up the annual, national and local government spend on arts, museums and libraries, it comes to £3 billion. This is, of course, a substantial investment. But, as we’ve seen, the bit that’s really looking challenged is the contrbution of local authorities.

“While the Arts Council cannot change the economics of local government or bridge the funding gaps, we can, as a national development agency, use our own relationships to broker new partnerships. We can focus specific funding on particular areas of need; we can invest in the best ideas. We can get the message out there that there are ways forward that can make a difference.”

Simon Parker, Director of New Local Government Network said:
“There is no industry better placed than the arts and culture to help councils think creatively. While there are no magic bullets that can replace funding cuts, we have seen councils and arts and culture organisations investing time and energy in finding ways to keep this vital sector going at a local level. We will continue to look at how we can support them in thinking about creative ways to do so.”

Publication Date: 13 April 2016
Authored by: Adrian Harvey

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