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The austerity Budget – good for the arts?

Before your brains get addled by the soundbite merchants from Government and Opposition, I’ve looked at one headline figure in the Budget and come to the conclusion that the arts are going to get off lightly – much more so than they would have done under Labour.

In the months before the last election, major arts instutitions were told to plan for succession ten percent cuts over three years – that’s 27.1 percent.

George Osborne spoke to day of cutting government spending by 25 percent over four years – that’s two percent less and over an extra 12 months.

Crunch this one whichever way you like, but it means the arts ought to get away with less pain under the LibCon coalition than under the feckless hand of Ben Bradshaw.

And if Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt decides to shake down the Arts Council, that measure would be cheered from Land’s End to Hadrian’s Wall. The southwest of England, a LibDem stronghold, has been cruelly neglected by the mandarins of the ACE.


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  1. Anyone who thinks that a 25% cut is a good thing for the arts must be living on a different planet. Cuts of this level will be catastrophic and destroy huge swathes of infrastructure, so carefully built up with moderately sustained investment under Labour.
    The idea that Labour were planning deeper cuts than the Tories is just nonsense – before the election, no-one was willing to name a figure until the autumn’s spending review. All the arts (and the Arts Council) had to go on were reports in the press of potential 20-30% cuts across non-ringfenced depts.
    Before the election, Jeremy Hunt insisted the arts would not be singled out for cuts in the manner of previous Tory governments. No sooner than taking office, Hunt announced that the arts would take a disproportional share of his department’s in-year cut as part of Osborne’s first £6bn (4% against 3% for other DCMS bodies).
    Worrying times.
    NL replies: 25% over four years is a better cut for the arts than 27.1% over three. QED. And if Muso has trouble believing the 27.1% Labour figure, s/he should ask the head of any large museum, gallery, or performing arts institution. I did.
    It’s going to be tough for everyone… but it’s also going to be different. And I, an optimist, think difference is always good for the arts.

  2. Lorenzo says:

    As we wait to hear the worst, it’s worth pointing out that predictions of 25% for DCMS are likely to be need revision upwards, given that 25% was the figure given for average cuts across departments, including Defence and Education, which it has already been signalled will receive special consideration. Coalition cuts will almost certainly be deeper than Labour was modelling. Cuts to other departmental budgets including local government spending and the HE sector will have a further negative impact on arts funding, while the shredding of the Arts Council’s capacity for brokerage functions will also impact across the sector. If ‘difference is always good for the arts’ then we should be cheering on the withdrawal of all state subsidy, to achieve maximum positive effect – the near wholesale dismantling of our cultural life.

  3. Ulysses says:

    The point about government funding of the arts and the impending budget cuts which may “destroy huge swathes of infrastructure, so carefully built up with moderately sustained investment under Labour”, fails to recognise that years of debilitating charity lead to a lack of ability to create a sustainable business model for the arts based on some sound economic principals. It would be far better for arts establishments to disentangle themselves from a web of Marxist practices and wake up to the smell of 21st century coffee.
    Orchestral musicians in particular worry about finances, but it is little wonder that a musician who has a status akin to that of an Oxfam volunteer is surprised that he or she suffers from an economic existence far from commensurate with the level of skill required in the profession. The regulatory framework of almost all of the orchestras (being registered charities), dictates that in the main providing commercial advantage to members is not acceptable.
    The focus on current funding is simply a red herring and takes attention away from creating a new economic model for the arts that creates a healthy distance from politics and the capriciousness of Government spending.

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