Funding of the arts and heritage - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents


Written evidence submitted by Take Art and the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) (arts 205)

SUMMARY

  We live in one of the most affluent societies in the world—no dispute about this; yet state funding for the arts is under unprecedented threat. The current coalition in power at Westminster has a mandate, again no question about this. If they decide to decimate our sector, representing a drop in the ocean of government spending, they will be sending a clear message to its citizens and to the world beyond. This message is that our civilised society has chosen to turn its back on one of the prime civilising, humanising and life affirming of human activities. The fig leaf that remains, the argument that "the cupboard is bare" will ring hollow for generations to come.

    — Recent and proposed spending cuts in the arts budgets at both local and central government level are likely to decimate the arts—cuts in arts funding are likely to have a disproportionate impact on the sector.

    — Touring arts in rural areas is a vital lifeline to culture for many people unable to access the arts in larger towns and cities—cuts in local authority budgets and Arts Council funding puts this work at risk.

    — Arts organisations should take the initiative and should look positively at ways of working more cost effectively on the basis that change is a necessity, not an option.

    — The level of public investment needed in the arts should be considered on the basis of a review of public investment in the arts—this is not a back of the envelope calculation. While arts funding represents about 0.07% of GDP, the creative industries contribute 7% to GDP—a handsome return on the investment.

    — The arms length principle needs to be retained, with an independent central body working effectively at a sub regional (local) level.

    — Arts Funding by local authorities should become a statutory and not discretionary function.

    — An increase in the Lottery distribution of funds to the arts is to be welcomed but not as replacement for treasury funds.

    — Guidelines for the National Lottery funding for the arts should always be kept under review (or at least periodically) to reflect changes in the needs of society and of the arts.

    — Businesses and philanthropists have supported the arts over a very long time, choosing, as they may, who and what they support; this welcome support is to be encouraged and supported but not as a replacement for state funding for the arts.

    — Any step that encourages private donations is to be welcomed so long as there are realistic expectations as to what this might be and if it is not expected to replace state funding for the arts.

MAIN BODY OF EVIDENCE

Recent and proposed spending cuts in the arts budgets at both local and central government level are likely to decimate the arts

  1.  The arts receive substantial revenue funding from local authorities as well as central government through the Arts Council. Roughly the same is invested by those local authorities and rural touring reflects this plurality of revenue funding. At the moment rural touring is besieged on two fronts—possible cuts in Arts Council funding and also in local authority funding. At this time of uncertainty organisations are unable to plan not knowing if one source of funding is to be decimated or if both are going to be subject to swingeing cuts. Both ACE and the local authorities are unlikely to pick up the "tab" if one funder decides to pull the plug on funding completely for an arts organisation. The uncertainty has bred chaos, severe stress (as in other sectors), a competitive dog eat dog mentality and threatens to undermine progress that has been made over the last 20 years in the space of twelve months. If the 25% plus cuts are followed through the arts will be decimated and many organisations will cease to exist.

  2.  Rural touring will be at risk as a result of cuts in local government budgets and Arts Council funding. The bulk of arts funding currently goes into major towns and cities and the danger is that future funding will consolidate around major facilities. As a result rural touring will disappear or be resourced on a notional basis leaving a significant part of the (rural) population unable to access the arts.

  3.  The process leading up to the current position (August 2010) has resulted in a three month hiatus which is unhealthy and unproductive to all. The budget announced the possibility of 25% to 40% cuts in public expenditure and asked government departments to model the impact of such cuts. This has led to a loss of stability in many organisations and an inability to plan within sensible parameters. Most organisations can cope with planning for a cut of say around 10% from, for example, one funder. An organisation asked to model 40% cuts from all its public funders (as we are) is effectively being asked to rip up its current organisational plan and to start again. This is not a productive use of strategic planning time if the reality is not so bad. This instability extends from the top at the Arts Council down to organisations working at a local level.

  4.  The modelling is not helped by the uncertainty over whether or not the cuts will be front or back loaded—will there be deep cuts in year one or will cuts be spread over the life of the parliament. This lack of clarity is no way to run a review and assessment of public funding in any sphere, let alone the arts.

  It has bred instability, caused unnecessary stress all of which will impact on the effectiveness of organisations trying to do their "job".

Arts organisations should take the initiative and should look positively at ways of working more cost effectively on the basis that change is a necessity, not an option

  5.  If one observes the state of the British economy and of other countries, the message is clear—there needs to be an approach to dealing with our financial problems at both a macro and micro level. Nationally there is argument over the speed and depth of cuts in spending; there is also debate over the relationship between spending cuts and rises in taxes. Arts organisations should not be hanging around waiting to be told what to do—they should take the initiative and explore how they might work more closely with colleagues and save money in this "new" climate.

  6.  Recipients of Arts Council and local authority funding are subject to review and assessment. Indeed regularly funded clients are assessed annually and one of the review criteria is sound financial management. Organisations that are inefficient, unproductive and wasteful should be caught by this process. As the strategic players one would expect the funders—the Arts Council and local authorities and their regularly funded clients to explore economies of scale and efficiency savings. This should be a joint process where funders work with funded organisations and it should not be a one sided process with either party expected to make the right decisions. The last ACE portfolio review shed a large number of clients—one would expect the current portfolio to comprise of mostly good and effective organisations so, funders, please work with them.

The level of public investment needed in the arts should be considered on the basis of a review of public investment in the arts—this is not a back of the envelope calculation

  7.  The question posed is an impossible question to answer in this kind of submission. This should be subject to a review of the arts funding system—when was the last time this was done?

  8.  The total amount spent on arts funding relative to overall government spending is absolutely tiny therefore any cuts are symbolic.

  9.  While arts funding represents about 0.07% of GDP, the creative industries contribute 7% to GDP—a handsome return on the investment.

  10.  Against this is the fact that cuts in arts funding will have a disproportionate impact on the sector.

  11.  Investment in the arts should not be measured only in terms of economic factors—they should be valued for their own sake and also for their "instrumental" contribution to society in terms of education, health and so on.

The arms length principle needs to be retained, with an independent central body working effectively at a sub regional (local) level.

  12.  There are a number of comments that can be made here, the first is that the arms length principle of arts funding should be retained. The state should feel confident in supporting the arts in such a way as to enable freedom of expression; one key way of doing this is to maintain independence in state funding of the arts..

  13.  Currently the Arts Council has this role distributing state funding. Other than ensuring a strategic approach to the funding of the arts, it also has a critical role in advocating the arts to government across a number of departments. The Arts Council could do better! Its connection of dance to the health agenda is lamentable. This is an argument for making ACE (Arts Council of England) a better organisation as opposed to getting rid of it and replacing it with a different body.

  14.  It is very important that the central distributive, strategic body is plugged into the regions and local delivery. London should not be seen as the only key arts region, nor should metropolitan cities as well as the capital be seen in such terms. Somehow key effective, delivery systems such as rural touring, which is enjoyed by over 2,500 rural communities nationally, should fall within the orbit of this central body.

  15.  The ACE portfolio is unbalanced. Something like 70% of their core resources go to approximately 10 big organisations, which are in the main if not exclusively located in large urban centres. (the amount of funding which goes into the large urban based organisations, gives an urban/rural funding imbalance ). This skews their work, their approach to their work and their relationship to the rest of their portfolio. There is an argument to take organisations like the ROH, NT, the RSC out of their portfolio as it stands and put them into a completely separate funding relationship with ACE. A review of ACE where they have one demonstrable set of relationships with these few, key clients and another set of relationships with the rest of the portfolio would stop the skewing of their work. It would also stop pitting the resourcing of the few against the resourcing of the many—they should not be compared to or against each other.

  16.  Treasury funding for the arts should remain a cornerstone of government spending. Lottery funding is welcome but should not be seen as a replacement for treasury funding. The former is an acknowledged, integral part of government spending and investment, while the latter is an uneven and less certain stream of funding. The balance should remain where the underpinning of the arts should sit within the realm of the former and the latter should support key initiatives and shifting priorities among a multiplicity of smaller arts organisations, non arts organisations and artists trying to become established.

Arts Funding by local authorities should become a statutory and not discretionary function

  17.  This is also an opportunity to make the case for statutory funding of the arts by local authorities. We know that local authorities currently invest as much money in the arts as central government does through ACE. In the current climate local authorities are modelling severe cuts in their budgets. The arts fall within the discretionary element of their services and as budgets reduce local authorities will concentrate on delivering their statutory responsibilities—this means arts budgets are likely to be savaged.

  18.  The arts fall within the voluntary sector. The voluntary sector is seen as having a big role in the delivery of the Big Society. However, the voluntary sector is part of the discretionary part of local government funding and this is likely to disappear as detailed in the previous paragraph. This does not make sense.

  19.  Periodically this debate surfaces. The likely disappearance of local authority funding for the arts (which will be patchy across the country) with impending budget cuts makes this debate more urgent than ever.

An increase in the Lottery distribution of funds to the arts is to be welcomed but not as replacement for treasury funds

Guidelines for the National Lottery funding for the arts should always be kept under review (or at least periodically) to reflect changes in the needs of society and of the arts

  20.  If the arts are to recover their original percentage of Lottery funds, as discussed, this will be welcome. This should not, however, be seen as an excuse to reduce treasury funding for the arts.

  21.  The purpose of Lottery funds could be reviewed in terms of how they might mesh with treasury funding in the future.

Businesses and philanthropists have supported the arts over a very long time, choosing, as they may, who and what they support; this welcome support is to be encouraged and supported but not as a replacement for state funding for the arts

  22.  Funds from other sources are to be welcomed as long as they are not used to replace treasury funding.

  23.  Businesses quite often fund arts organisations and events through sponsorship where there is a negotiated return on the "investment". This is quite different to grant giving trusts and charities, where it is more common to describe the "investment" as a donation and where the return is linked to the aims and objectives of the organisation and a particular project rather than getting the name of the giver a higher profile.

  24.  The recession and the falls in the stock market have impacted heavily on business sponsorship of and grant giving to the arts.

  25.  The culture of giving in these ways to the arts has a different starting point to that in the USA. This different starting point should be acknowledged rather than there being a hasty assumption that we can borrow the American model and import it into Britain.

  26.  Private donations and sponsorship tend to follow prominent, high profile organisations. Smaller, grass roots organisations tend to miss out or receive very modest sums—the perceived impact and visibility for sponsors is much lower.

Any step that encourages private donations is to be welcomed so long as there are realistic expectations as to what this might be and if it is not expected to replace state funding for the arts

  27.  Government incentives to encourage private donations are to be welcomed providing they are not expected to replace state funding for the arts.

September 2010





 
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