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Arts Development UK Local Authority Arts Spending survey

Arts Development UK is pleased to launch the findings of our eighth annual local authority arts spending survey, undertaken to assess the level of arts spending for 2011/12. The survey shows that there have been significant changes to budgets in local authority arts spending. The survey took the form of a questionnaire sent to heads of arts or cultural officers in all authorities in England and Wales, and the survey was sent to both member and non-member authorities. In this particularly challenging time, we received the largest response to a survey to date, with 104 authorities responded, representing 29.9% of all authorities in England and Wales.  We would like to thank all participants for their responses.

The results of the survey show what is important to arts services currently provided by local authorities:

  •  There is a downward trend in almost all areas of activity and yet local authority arts services continue to deliver high quality arts work and address local priories;
  • Arts services contribute to the quality of life of local communities ;by supporting areas such as health & wellbeing, education and children’s services, social cohesion and essentially making life worth living;
  • The arts demonstrate value for money with a return on investment of over 6:1 that the arts bring into the public sector.

Overall the picture of local government funding for the arts is one of declining resources, with further reductions in funds spent by local authorities on their own arts services.  Average expenditure by surveyed councils is down by 16.3% since 2010 and 38% since 2008.  Given that the cut in central government overall grants to councils was nearly 30% and that arts services are non-statutory and so vulnerable, it is likely this downward trend will continue and over ninety percent of surveyed councils expect further reductions. Ten council arts services were under threat of closure at the beginning of 2011 – 2012 year, with 45 authorities already having scrapped their arts service over the past nine years.  

Respondents also reported an increasing trend towards combining arts services with other services (such as regeneration or wider community services) indicating a possible loss of specialism within the arts, but at the same time greater security for arts services seen to be delivering strongly against corporate objectives.  A positive note comes through the increase in leverage arts budgets are achieving, with every £1 spend attracting £6.32 from other departments or external organisations – despite councils reporting that only 35 of those surveyed secured Arts Council funds (for both England and Wales).  Council contributions to Arts Council Regularly Funded Organisations (or National Portfolio Organisations as they will become in April 2012) is also down, on average by 27%.  Councils do however continue to be a source of funding for non- RFO status bodies, with 53 investing a total of over £4 million.

2011 – 2012 is the first year under the new government financial settlement and the survey will not have captured the full extent of the impact on arts services that the reduction in council budgets will have.  This will need to monitored, and as the trend in outsourcing and alternative means of service delivery the survey reveals continues, Arts Development UK will also need to ensure surveys in future cover fully  local authority spend on the arts through all means.

 To download the full report, click: 2011 Final Report