The funding pit and the pendulum – arts and heritage funding report released

The Culture, Media and Sports committee have released a report on funding of arts and heritage which is fairly damning. It opens:

Arts and heritage in Britain are among our greatest assets. They bring great cultural and economic benefits and everybody should have access to them.

The report calls for the Arts Council for England to make further cuts by 50% on top of the current 50% cut to its administration budget. It argues that this can be made through better financial management across arts organisations.

It expresses concern for the recent shutterings of various bodies, saying

[the Government’s] surprising decision to abolish the UK Film Council, Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and the Public Lending Right. We are critical of the Government’s lack of dialogue with these bodies during its review and the surprising way in which it informed them of their abolition. We are also concerned that the decision was taken without any clear idea of which bodies would take on their respective functions.

The report argues for a review of the decision to close the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) in 2012 as it feels that the Arts Council will not be able to replace the MLA as it is under pressure itself.

It also raises concerns that smaller arts projects will feel a disproportionate swish of the axe. Whilst noting that:

encouraged to become more commercially aware and explore other funding streams, although we note that this will be harder for some smaller bodies and those outside London and the metropolitan areas.

it also notes that the UK does not have the same culture of philanthropy that the US does. It then falls into the arts and heritage bodies to find new funding streams. David Pidsley pointed me to this link on the BBC New site about such funding streams and I know that Creation Theatre have been active in creating a community of donors and events as well putting on awesome productions and workshops.

The report also argues that the Arts Council should consider selling some of its arts works from its collections and perhaps not purchasing work by artists in the collection. This collection has been built up to be lent to museums and galleries, except under certain circumstances, and is being curated and digitised. It also asks for the Council to increase the current rate of 25-30% of the collection being on loan to 50%. It also recommends the collections of the Arts Council, British Council and Government are amalgamated into one collection.

The Arts Council for England have responded that the report is “out of date in places and could have benefited from a wider range of viewpoints from the oral witnesses” and “[s]elling off works of art from the Arts Council Collection is also not a sensible solution to the current budget cuts”.

Whilst acknowledging the cultural and economic benefits of the arts and heritage communities to the country, this report leaves me flat and cold. At the moment, I can only see the current situation becoming worse. The National portfolio funding decisions will be announced to the public on Wednesday 30 March at 10am, according the Arts Council website.

Further sources: MLA Council website on CMS Report on Arts & Heritage funding .

The Guardian Culture blog article on the cuts.