Grave news broke yesterday as the Arts Council England announced a raft of cuts to be made in accordance with a recent governmental spending review. The stated intention of the measures is to slash expenditure and streamline the administrational process within the organisation. In what the body – which refers to its work as ‘the bedrock of support for the arts in England’ – is describing as an ‘organisational review’, 118 of the council’s 560 full-time staff will lose their jobs. Offices will be down-scaled to achieve a 50% reduction in property costs, and the body’s operation will be reorganised into a regional system covering five large areas, London, the South East, the South West, the Midlands and the North.
In 2009/10 alone, this service ploughed a massive £579million of public money into arts organisations, development funds, education programmes and grants. This week’s considerable down-sizing of the council must surely equate to very real losses in the arts nationwide.
In a presentation on the review which was released alongside the announcement of the cuts, the Arts Council suggested, “we will have to do things differently, through more streamlined investment processes and a more focused set of priorities”. Whilst this statement emphasises a tightening of quality control in the funding application process, the real message it carries is that more causes are likely to miss out on funding from here on in.
Over recent years the Arts Council England has funded a range of platforms for the arts in York, including the National Rural Touring Forum, The J-Night Jazz Festival, Pilot Theatre Company and York’s Theatre Royal, alongside special events including this year’s phenomenally successful York Mystery Plays. It would surely be a body-blow to our city’s cultural life were these cuts to impact upon any of these companies, businesses and events.
You can leaf through a PDF from the Arts Council England setting out the details and nature of the cuts here.
More to follow on this story.