We’re Under Attack!


‘Arty types’ are often not terribly into maths and statistics etc. maybe they even drifted off in their maths classes, but there are some sums that are so chilling they are impossible to doze through.

Today I attended a presentation from Arts Council England. If you wish never to sleep again please do read on by all means.

Arts Council Briefing Meeting – 7th June, 2013.

Presented by Peter Phillips – Area Chairman
Laura Dyer – Area Executive Director
Peter Knott – Area Director

The Introduction.
Peter Phillips opened the meeting by saying that things are getting very tough, but that he knows that this is when the tough get going. He noted that Arts Council is now highly efficient, with running costs now accounting for just 3% of their budget. He thanked thank valued colleagues who have been lost in the cuts.

The Problem.
Laura Dyer followed saying that although things are tough “all is still to play for” and that we can still make a difference.
She set out what is expected from the next spending round, which will cover just one year (2015/16). Approximately 2.4% is expected to be cut on average across all Government departments but as there are departments protected from cuts the others, including the Department for Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) can expect to be cut by 5.2%. From here it becomes a question of how the Department chooses to spread the pain – as Great Britain and Elite Sport are expected to be protected the Arts Council are preparing for a 10% cut. There is then a suggestion that a further 10% cut could be spread across the next two years. The DCMS asked Arts Council England (ACE) to model 5% – 10% and 15% cuts for (2015/16). ACE responded that in these three scenarios the cumulative budget cuts from 2010/11 would total 35%, 40% and 45% respectively.

The Possible ‘Answers’.

Peter Knott set out ACE’s thinking and models around these scenarios. Although only one year of Government funding (Grant in Aid) will be confirmed they propose open applications for three year revenue funding with the second two years agreed on the proviso that GiA money is confirmed later. Applications can be expected to open in late 2013 and close in March 2014 with results being made known two months later giving organisations ten months to deal with the outcomes. It has been decided to take this approach as, even a cut at the lower end of expectations, spread evenly across the portfolio, would push a huge number of organisations over the edge. Also there is a desire to continue to provide the possibility for new organisations to be added to the funding portfolio.

ACE intends to continue with its three strands of funding National Portfolio Organisations and Strategic Funds and Grants for the Arts (G4A). Planning is complicated by the fact that ACE receives both GiA money (which is being cut) and Lottery Money (which is volatile and could be diverted but is currently not being cut). A principle of ‘additionality’ applies to Lottery money which legally means it cannot be mixed with GiA money but has to be spent on ‘additional’ activities. Under current arrangements touring and young people’s work are deemed additional and as a result lots of NPO agreements include money from both pots with the two pots having to be accounted for separately. ACE is keen to find ways to stay within the law and do away with this complexity (there are also political considerations to any approach which suggests GiA could be cut entirely and replaced by Lottery cash. One suggestion they have is that organisations may in the future be 100% GiA funded or 100% Lottery funded – they asked if people would mind being ‘additional’.

Modelling the various levels of cuts beyond 2015/16 deliver the following results:

A 5% cut would reduce the current 695 National Portfolio Organisations by one third with a reduction in strategic funds and an increase in G4A to try and aid up to 200 fromer NPOs.

A 10% cut would reduce the Number of NPOs by four fifths with possibly 150 helped out by slightly increased G4A money.

A 15% cut would reduce NPOs by more than four fifths with possibly just 200 organisations supported in total.

Questions were then invited from the audience of arts CEOs.

Q: Have ACE told the treasury directly about the hammering the arts are also getting from local councils?

A: Yes, and they were not entirely unsympathetic.

Q: What would be strategic about strategic funds in a landscape so blighted by such cuts, shouldn’t it all go directly into the other funding streams?

Q: The minister for culture emphasises the arts’ need to “contribute to growth”. Has it been pointed out to her the impact these cuts would have on the wider economy?

A: Yes.

Q: Could we not conference digitally to save time, money and environmental impact, especially now our region as expanded so radically.

A: We are working on that and already do it a bit.
Alan Rivet opened his questioning by stating “this is as bad as it gets”.

Dorothy Wilson was pleased to hear that ACE would have no ‘sacred cows’ when it came to looking at where cuts should fall and hoped that this would indeed be the case as politicians have sacred cows. She suggested “this is an emergency” that it effects the whole country but that with philanthropic giving so heavily skewed towards London it damaged is somewhat masked in the centre of power. “Advocacy [for the arts] could never have been more urgent than it is now.”

A: There is a ‘lobbying toolkit’ on the ACE website.

Q: If there are no sacred cows has ACE considered selling off any of the country’s vast capital assets? The country owns a vast number of extremely valuable paintings.

In answer to a question posed by ACE about having two portfolios it was pointed out that a single portfolio would be much easier to fight for than two.

Laura Dyer wound up proceedings by pointing to the ACE website lobbying section. She noted that having started to spend time in Westminster she has been surprised how much the ‘background noise’ of the country does create an impact. She noted that if we are internally divided we are easier to attack. The message has to be that the investment in the arts is small and the impact is huge. “Look at what you stand to lose”. Culture Matters.

11 thoughts on “We’re Under Attack!

  1. I don’t understand why 5% is equivalent to a third of NPOs. Is there somewhere we can see what all the other money is spent on? Are NPOs disproportionately targeted by cuts?

  2. 5% = 1/3 of NPOs doesn’t reflect the proportion of Arts Council money spent on NPOs but reflects the fact that most NPOs already run on the edge of viability so a small cut would push man over the edge. In order to mitigate against this damage there is the suggestion of pulling further money out of the NPO pot in order to boost the Grants for the Arts (G4A) budget which would be expected to act as some sort of safety net for NPOs no longer to operate at the level.

    I don’t believe the NPOs are disproportionately targeted, but the vulnerability reflects the fact that Arts Council administration costs have been pared back to the point where all cuts now get passed directly onto arts companies. The effect of Grant in Aid (direct Government) cuts is exacerbated by the fact that NPOs are almost exclusively funded by GiA money where as the money that funds G4A comes from the National Lottery.

    I have to stress this is an amateur understanding/interpretation so please don’t take my word as authoritative (as if anyone ever would!). It’s easy enough to dig around yourself. Last year’s Arts Council accounts are here contained in this document:


  3. Apparently this article HAS been taken as authoritive. The Guardian has linked to it in the latest article call ‘Only” 8% cut to Culture

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