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Confirmed: UK arts cuts held to 5 percent

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has agreed an eight percent cut with the Treasury, of which five percent will be exacted from arts and museums, the BBC has confirmed.

This is tough, but by no means as bad as feared. Two arts chiefs I spoke to this morning were sanguine about that result.

The Culture Secretary Maria Muller held the line and achieved the same cut as other spending departments. She was attacked in the Times this morning for refusing to ‘debate’ with one of its journalists, but her polemical skills were applied better and more forensically at the Treasury. She has done well.

What remains is the question whether her department will – or should – survive the next cull. As far as the arts are concerned there is too much  bureaucratic duplication. Either DCMS or Arts Council England should get the chop. The consequent savings should be passed directly to arts organisations.

See our editorial. More follows.

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  1. The usual ghastly charade of Treasury/DCMS managing expectations. Threaten 15%, deliver 8% like everyone else. Simply a way of gagging arts practitioners, who have no media mob baying on their behalf. We often disagree but on DCMS/ACE we are of the same opinion – cut out the monkey and go straight to the organ grinder.

  2. Will Duffay says:

    It remains to be seen how this translates into actual funding, but even for those of us who love music and opera is it not time to review the ROH subsidy? I believe last year it received £26m, which was over 7% of the entire Arts Council budget. That is, quite simply, unfair to the rest of the arts world, however much it is necessary to maintain a world-leading opera house.

    • But the ROH’s Arts Council revenue is a smaller proportion of total revenue than any other large recipient – around 25%. I would regard this as a success story to be learned from, not something to criticise.

      I sometimes despair at the readiness of some people who love the arts to undermine their own position in the interests of “fairness”. Incompetent national and local government procurement alone costs us far more than £26m.

      • Will Duffay says:

        Sorry, I don’t follow. Do you mean that we shouldn’t analyse the £26m simply because it’s a smaller proportion of that organisation’s total income than other organisations receive?

        But the arts council pot is finite and small. Arts organisations are in competition with each other, and our knowledge that far more than £26m is wasted elsewhere in government makes no difference. The fact is that the ROH is just one theatre in the country, and it provides a very expensive example of a form of entertainment which is of marginal interest even to those who take a serious interest in the arts. I maintain that it IS unfair for the ROH to receive such a vast amount when the majority of the eventual recipients are the wealthy, and when there are arts organisations throughout the country struggling or going bust.

        I would much rather that £26m were halved, and the other half put towards regional opera companies. The City can fund the ROH.

        • I’m saying that the ROH is doing exactly what critics have been saying it should be doing. It sets a good example. Your comment about the City is just a cheap crack, nothing more.

          The subsidy allows people with limited means to buy tickets. That’s the purpose of it. Members of the audience who surround me are very ordinary, I can assure you. To say that opera is of marginal interest strikes me as strange when most, if not all, subsidised art is of marginal or, at the very least, minority interest. And if interest is so small, why would you want to subsidise regional opera companies at all?

          Your lack of interest in waste elsewhere is also strange, since it comes out of the same pot. From a recent edition of The Spectator:

          “The state has paid £500 million over the past three years to send the children of diplomats and military officers to public schools. Civil servants who began their careers before 2002 are still retiring at 60 and taxpayers are forking out £912,000 a year to subsidise flying lessons, diving lessons and trips to Barbados through the civil service sports council.

          What about the £17.5 billion set aside for medical negligence claims, much of which will disappear into the pockets of lawyers? That could be trimmed in one go with an end to ‘no win, no fee’ agreements and the spurious claims that result from them. What about the £700,000 spent sending staff at NHS England on team-building exercises, the £4,800 spent on breast implants for an aspiring model who claimed that having small breasts was ruining her life, or the average £2,492 spent sending patients on ‘exercise referral schemes’ — i.e. subsidised gym and dance classes?”

        • Can’t help feeling you’ve been influenced by the misleading picture used here:

          Doesn’t look like any ROH audience that I’ve been part of.

          Surely the problem is that the country lacks theatres capable of receiving large productions? Attempts to remedy this in Manchester, however, have not been particularly successful.

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