Council spending on arts and culture down by 16 per cent, report finds

Council spending on arts and culture has taken a large hit in recent years, falling by 16 per cent since 2010, according to Arts Council England.

The ‘Funding arts and culture in a time of austerity’ report warns that figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) show that investment in arts and culture development and support, theatres and public entertainment, museums and galleries and library services has declined from £1.42 billion to 1.2 billion over the course of the last parliament.

London boroughs saw the largest cuts of 19 per cent, while shire counties saw the smallest reduction of 15 per cent.

While the report highlights that councils are still collectively the largest source of investment in arts and culture, it warns that the figures are worrying, as the cuts are likely to continue, which Peter Bazalgette, Arts Council England chair, describes as ‘the biggest challenge arts and culture faces at the moment’.

Speaking at the New Local Government Network Hub in London, Bazalgette urged local authorities to ‘work together to develop new, creative and innovative solutions to sustain the vital cultural life of our communities’.

He said: “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 contribution 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.”