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Local government culture funding cut by £200m in 2010/11

The Stage has reported that local authority spending on culture fell by more than £200 million in 2010/11, according to figures just released by the Department for Communities and Local Government. The figures, which represent the combined sum for funding to arts, leisure, heritage, libraries and museums, reveal that councils in England spent 5.9% less in cash terms on culture in 2010/11 than in the previous year, with the amount dropping from £3.5 billion to £3.3 billion. These cuts came at a time when overall spending by authorities increased in cash terms, from £119.1 billion to £121.2 billion. However, over the next four years, councils are facing significant cash cuts to their central government funding, leading to fears that cultural spending will fall even further.

 Many of the major cuts to local authority arts spend that have already been announced – for example in Somerset, North Yorkshire, Croydon and Barnet – are not included in this £200 million cut, as they did not come into effect until 2011/12 and beyond. In fact, the projected local government spend on culture in 2011/12 is expected to fall by a further £200 million, returning subsidy to 2006/07 levels.

 The figures come soon after warnings from major industry figures that there was a “downward spiral” in local authority funding for the arts. In March this year, former culture secretary Chris Smith called on the coalition government to “look again” at the idea of imposing a legal duty on councils to fund the arts.

 The latest information correlates with the Arts Development UK Local Authority Arts Spending Survey, undertaken at the start of this financial year, which demonstrated a steep decline in arts spending for 2011/12 estimated at 16.3% in this financial year. The AD:uk Survey demonstrated that at the start of the new financial year in April 2011, arts services are facing severe reductions 

  • 40.7% of authorities have a standstill budget without inflation
  • 44.4% are facing severe service reductions, and
  • Almost 10% were under threat of closure.


Services demonstrated that:

  • 92.6% of those surveyed forecasted a decrease in funding for arts services in their authority in 2012/13.
  • 31% reported that their arts service is being staffed by a single officer
  • Local authorities surveyed reported overall a 27% reduction in support to RFOs/NPOs in their catchment in 2011/12

 Leverage of funds from other sources has also increased dramatically. For every £1 spent, £6.32 was levered from other organisations in 2011, showing the increase in external partnerships and funding. 

 Immediate priorities and concerns for arts services are now: 

  • retaining & supporting local projects, organisations & RFOs (28%) and
  • Income generation, seeking external funding (22%).
  • 7% were expecting to lose their arts service at the end of the financial year

 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 closed their arts service over the past nine years.