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Arts Development UK Local Authority Arts Investment & Partnership Survey 2015

ADUK-green-A-blockArts Development UK are pleased to announce the release of the twelfth consecutive annual local authority arts investment survey, undertaken to assess the level of arts investment for 2015/16. The survey was undertaken in spring/summer 2015 to assess the level of arts spending forecast for 2015/16 with an online survey sent to all authorities in England and Wales. 61 responses were returned, representing 16% of all authorities in England and Wales, and out of this, 26% of authorities with an arts service, a comparable response rate to the survey response in 2014. The survey shows continued and significant changes to budgets in local authority arts spending. Out of 353 authorities in England and 22 in Wales, and as of August 2015, 138 local authorities have no dedicated arts officer and have no direct arts service. This represents 37% of all authorities in England and Wales. The remaining 63% have services that are vulnerable to cuts and like the rest of the local authority cultural sector the majority are operating in reduced financial circumstances.

The survey has enabled a comparison of past trends and focussed on relevant contemporary concerns, such as financial issues, priority targets, partnerships and the relationship with other bodies including the Arts Councils in England and Wales. Responses to the 2015 survey reveal a challenging picture of the arts in local communities.

Tony Witton, Arts & Cultural Services Manager with Kent County Council and Chair of ADUK’s Research and Advocacy Working Party & Trustee comments: “This year’s survey shows that, in a context of increasing and extreme financial pressures on public funding across the board, our sector has been able to show resilience and remain reasonably stable overall. We can see from the survey that our continued ability to innovate and collaborate, using the arts to deliver outcomes across a wide range of agendas is a significant contributory factor. However, if we want to continue to hold a sustainable position in the longer term, we need to become more creative by growing our partnerships and using different language to position our sector more centrally within mainstream debates by demonstrating the value of public funding to the growth of the economy and the creation of a skills pathway for the cultural and creative industries through a solid cultural education guarantee.”

Jane Wilson, Chair of ADUK stated: “The continuing pattern of change, as more and more authorities outsource services and re-purpose remaining staff into more general roles, highlights the increasing need to consider how these new patterns of operation will effect capacity to understand and plan for local cultural needs over the long term.”

The complete survey report is available here: ADuk-ACW LAArtsSpendingSurveyReport 3-9-15

The survey continues to be important and we are pleased that so many people took part despite shortages of staff and time. The 2015 survey shows what is important to arts services currently provided by local authorities:

• The total estimated spend in England and Wales on arts services for 2015/16 is £200,802,042. The landscape is changing with several authorities losing their arts service this year and a reduction in the number of smaller authorities able to take part in the survey.
• Arts spend per head of population in 2015/16 in England and Wales is estimated at £2.73 per person, a slight decrease of 5.2% (15p) on last year.
• The average projected local authority budget for arts spending in all responding authorities in 2015/16 is £847,266, 3.7% down on last year’s average actual spend of £878,262. Some of this change can be attributed to changes in restructuring and a general revision of services, although at least 2 local authority arts services have been lost in 2015/16.
• This year’s survey has enabled an analysis of the situation in England and Wales separately. In 2015/16 and 2014/15, the average budget per authority is less in England (currently £751,729 for 2015/16) than in Wales (at £1,263,680 for 2015/16). However, Wales has seen a decrease of 13% since last year compared with a decrease of only 0.07% in England.
• The survey shows the modal range of arts expenditure for authorities being between £400k and £750k. Responses continue to demonstrate an overall loss of arts services in smaller authorities, who are more vulnerable to cuts or closure and we have lost a considerable number of small authority arts services over the last few years. Larger and medium sized authorities are more likely to retain cohesive arts services.
• This is also substantiated by the average number of full time equivalent (FTE) staff employed. The highest percentage of arts service staff per authority reported in 2015/16 is 2-3 (FTE). This seems to indicate a rise in the median range from 1 (FTE) reported in the 2014/15 survey, but also perhaps demonstrates the loss of single arts officer authorities, especially in small rural authority areas as local authority cuts produce more smaller arts service closures. We explored this subject further to find out how many of these officers have job descriptions that include Arts Policy or Arts Development work (at least 30% of time spent on this work), the result was an average of 2.0 staff per authority (24.5%), down by 0.5 staff per authority from last year. It is estimated at present that nearly 2,000 establishment posts are directly employed in arts services by local authorities. This compares with an estimated 5,600 staff members recorded in 2008/9.
• Although partnership working internal to authorities (from other departments and services) has increased by 15% in comparison to the previous year, external partnerships have declined in number by 27%, which is attributed to the steady decline in available project funding with a very slowly emerging economy. This may also be attributed to the fact that health services have moved from an independent body to a local authority remit. Partnerships however do make substantial contributions to arts budgets. Almost two thirds of all authorities are working with external partnership to deliver some of their arts services, demonstrating the need to be outward facing and open to opportunity to work collectively to support local communities.
• Local authorities are significant funders of independent arts organisations, especially in areas with little or no NPO/RFO provision by ACE or ACW and support for non-RFO/NPO arts organisations accounts for up to 10% of total arts spending 2014/15. The average spending to RFO/NPO regularly funded organisations in partnership with ACE and ACW accounted for 18.6% of the total arts spend in 2014/15 but this amount is projected to fall to 15.7%. The contribution however demonstrating the active partnership between local authorities and the Arts Councils in England and Wales.
• Arts contribute to public service outcomes, with 96% of respondents stating that their arts services contribute to health and wellbeing outcomes; 86% stated that they contribute to stronger and safer communities; 75% contributing to equality and exclusion, and 75% contributing to education & child services.
• Spending on staff costs constitutes 35.8% of the total budget: 2% down on last year. This is set against the reduction in spending on directly managed services and the move towards contracting out.
• Responses to job security showed that this is still a period of instability for the arts in local government, with at least 25% of those under threat of major cuts, but only 2% under threat of closure. For most, although the threat of immediate closure seems to have declined, local authorities still face severe cutbacks in funding and we will not know the full picture until the national government spending review takes place September 2015.
• There are still a high number of respondents expecting redundancies in 2016/17: 18% in 2015/16. This is 4% less that last year. Reasons given for this include being uncertainty about the future, changing structure and changing status.
• 46% of local authorities taking part recorded a funding decrease with a further 20% reporting standstills (with and without inflation). The move to contracting out services continues with 12% of authorities reporting that they have contracted their services to a third party organisation. We also asked respondents their opinions on the future funding for arts services within their local authority over the next 2 or 3 years. 71% of respondents expected a funding decrease; 25% expected that their services would be contracted out; and 15% thought that their services were under threat of closure.
• 40% of all arts and cultural services have been restructured in the last 2 years. Of those that responded positively, 69% had moved to a different department and the majority of those who responded felt that this had made their service less vulnerable to cuts. Whilst restructuring continues to take place, there is evidence that this continues to make respondents feel more confident about their positions in the future.
• The relationship between local authorities and ACE/ACW is improving with 47% of respondents stating that it was active and developing. 4% stated that they had negative or receding relationships however, and 21% stated that they had no relationship with their regional office. There is a variation between ACW and ACE, with 30% of English authorities stating that they have no relationships with their regional office, whilst none of the responding Welsh authorities reported having no contact with their regional office.
• Local authority financial support from lottery funding from ACE and ACW has increased from the previous year, with an average of £51,848 per authority, and increase of 15%. 49% reported that they had received no funding at all from their Arts Council. There is a higher investment in local authorities by ACW with ACW investing almost twice that of ACE per authority.
• However, the total amount of non-lottery core funding from either ACE or ACW has decreased with only 7 out of 33 authorities responding receiving a total of £579,013 in 2014/15, an overall average of £17,546, a marked reduction in investment in comparison to last year.
The overall the picture of local authority funding for the arts is one of sustainability and consolidation, but with more cuts anticipated in 2016/17 as local authority funding continues to decline and with increasing competition from other statutory and non-statutory services. We are awaiting the central Government Spending Assessment in September 2015, which will give a clearer picture of future projected cut, but the future looks bleak for non-statutory services. Arts services are no different to other cultural services provided either directly or indirectly by authorities and the downturn in the economy over the last four or five years has enforced major changes to the cultural landscape.

Comparisons between English and Welsh authorities demonstrate more stabilisation in England, with spend per head of population remaining virtually the same (£2.17 with £2.16 projects for 2015/16). In Wales, spend per head has dropped from £8.74 to £7.60, a reduction of 13%. Although Wales spends more per authority, Wales has seen a greater reduction in average spending per authority, with a reduction of 13.1% as compared to 0.7% reductions in England.

From comparison of the last 2 years of survey responses, the arts sector is relatively stable but this may mask major concerns as most of the cuts have been targeted at lower level project funding and back office costs in both LA and at ACE/ACW. It is likely that we will see more outsourcing developing, especially in Wales, as local authorities seek more efficient ways of providing services. Value for money remains a priority with more work progressing on income generation and efficiency savings.

What the sector is lacking is the higher risk speculative projects that would get artists started on their journeys. The learning obtained on these projects has often laid the foundations for future work and ideas, which have led to established arts practise and professional standards. From comments and responses, it appears that there is less reliance on artistic and audience development and more reliance on developing new income streams and fundraising. New fundraising strategies take time and considerable resources to develop; a precious commodity from an already much under-resourced sector.

This is exacerbated by the loss of specialist arts officers from local authorities. This is often understated by the press and media, with no one to take up the banner of development or to speak up for the arts. With no officer in post to develop fundraising and sponsorship strategies, access to funding opportunities to develop new community programmes, especially for smaller authorities may be lost. The role of arts development officers has changed, with less time now spent on arts development and with less time spent on nurturing local communities to develop their own programmes.

Local authorities have historically been significant funders of independent arts organisations, especially in areas with little or no NPO/RFO provision by ACE or ACW. Support for non-RFO/NPO arts organisations accounts for up to 10% of total arts spend. The average spending to RFO/NPO regularly funded organisations in partnership with ACE and ACW accounts for 18.6% of the total arts spend, and demonstrating the active partnership between local authorities and the Arts Councils in England and Wales. The decrease in % of total arts spend on NPOs could be a sign of local authorities becoming more risk averse when looking at arts investment. Whilst this could speak to an alignment of priorities between ACE/ACW, it could demonstrate local authorities more willing to continue to invest in tried and tested arts delivery organisations, which could stifle future growth and innovation.

As with previous years, the trend continues for major internal reorganisation, and an increase in more non-specific cultural services (combining arts services with other services such as regeneration or wider community services such as libraries, museums and tourism) indicating a loss of specialism within the arts. Reorganisation does however seem to offer greater resilience and security for arts services with over 67% of respondents commenting that they saw the arts services less vulnerable as a result of reorganisation as the arts continue to perform strongly against corporate objectives.

It is pleasing to see that levels of internal partnership have increased by 15% however partnership development is still vulnerable, with external partnerships down on last year, attributed to the steady decline in major project development. Partnerships however do make substantial contributions to arts budgets with almost 2/3rd of local authorities in some form of external partnership to help deliver arts services, demonstrating the need to be outward facing and open to opportunities to support local communities.

2015/16 is the first year of a majority Conservative Government and most authorities are fearful of the Spending Review when announced in September 2015. Most departments have been asked to make substantial cuts to their budgets and this will be passed on to local authorities and ACE/ACW, putting more pressure on arts development services. Many services are, however, resilient or find alternative ways through outsourcing of providing arts services. We continue to see efforts to maintain stability and consolidation. The continued economic climate that we all work has resulted in extreme financial pressure to all local authority services. ADUK will continue to monitor the impact of the recession on arts services year on year.