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ADUK Local Authority Arts Investment Survey 2017

In summer 2017 ADUK undertook its 14th annual local authority spending survey to assess the level of arts spending forecast for 2017/18. For the last 5 years the survey has been in association with Arts Council of Wales, demonstrating ADUK’s growing relationship with local authorities in Wales as well as England, delivering our ambition to broaden the membership and our activities in both countries. 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 2017 survey reveal a challenging picture of the arts in local communities.

The survey shows continued and significant changes to budgets in local authority arts spending.  As of October 2017 and out of 353 authorities in England and 22 in Wales, 143 local authorities have no dedicated arts officer or direct arts service.  This represents 38% of all authorities in England and Wales. The remaining 62% (232 out of 375) 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.

In a joint statement from the Chair of ADUK, Jane Wilson, and the Chair of ADUK’s Research and advocacy Working Party, Tony Witton, Jane and Tony commented: “The 2017 survey shows a very similar picture to last year: no dramatic change, but rather a continuation of the service reductions, budget cuts and uncertainty over the future that have characterised all our recent surveys. The gradual nature of the reductions makes it harder to see the overall level of change, but by looking back over time we can see the over two thirds reduction in local authority posts, and the very uneven distribution of those remaining officers across the country, with nearly 40% of local authorities no longer having a dedicated arts officer or direct arts service. 

Where services do remain, the pressure to deliver more with significantly reduced resources is emerging in the survey responses. Those localities with continuing services are seeing further growth in partnership working, and in the funding of arts activity designed to address wider social and economic issues: the pressure on local authority funding where it is still in place means that space for support for the new or emerging is increasingly squeezed.  We are operating in a very different landscape, one which prompts serious questions about the future ecology for arts and culture, both within and beyond local authority services.”

A full report with appendices is available here: ADUK_LA_Arts_Investment_Report_2017

The 2017 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 2017/18 is projected to decrease to £171,958,985: a decrease of £2,728,792 (1.6%) on 2016/17. The landscape is still changing with yet more local authorities losing their arts service and a reduction in the number of smaller authorities able to take part in the survey. However, the reduction in budgets and services seems to have slowed as last year there was a decrease of 13% between 2015/16 and 2016/17.
  • Arts spend per head of population in 2017/18 in England and Wales is estimated at £2.26 per person, a decrease of 6.6% (16p) on last year. Although arts spend per head is higher in Wales (at £4.42) than in England (at £2.22), it should be noted that all authorities in Wales are unitaries whilst those in England demonstrate a range of unitaries and also county and district authorities, sometimes with shared populations.
  • The average projected local authority budget for arts spending in all responding authorities in 2017/18 is £778,060 – 7% down on last year’s average actual spend. As last year, the fall is proportionately higher in England (7.4%) than Wales (2.7%). However, in both England and Wales the reduction in arts spending has slowed compared to last year when the fall was 14% in England and 5% in Wales.
  • The survey shows the modal range of arts expenditure for authorities for 2017/18 being under £150,000. 38% of authorities in England have services with arts spending lower than £150,000, whereas the figure rises slightly in Wales to £150,000 – £200,000. 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.
  • Spending on staff costs constitutes 24.2% of the total budget. This is set against the reduction in spending on directly managed services and the move towards contracting out. The highest percentage of arts service staff per authority reported in 2017/18 is 2-3 (FTE). We explored this subject further to find out how many 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 1.7 staff per authority (0.2 down on last year). It is estimated at present that nearly 1,600 establishment posts are directly employed in arts services by local authorities. This compares with an estimated 5,600 staff members recorded in 2008/9.
  • The 2017 survey has demonstrated a marked increase in partnership working, with 38% of local authorities involved in partnership working with another department within that authority and 96% involved in external partnership with other organisations. This demonstrates the need for services to work together to provide cultural provision for local communities in the severe financial environment facing local authorities across England and Wales. Partnerships however do make substantial contributions to arts budgets with nearly all local authorities in some form of partnership to help deliver arts services, demonstrating the need to be outward facing and open to opportunities to support local communities.
  • The average spending to NPO (National Portfolio Organisation)/APW (Arts Portfolio Wales) regularly funded organisations in partnership with ACE and ACW accounts for 46% of the total arts spend, a standstill on last year’s survey, but still demonstrating the active partnership between local authorities and the Arts Councils in England and Wales in difficult financial times.
  • As again demonstrated in the 2017 survey, local authorities have historically been significant funders of independent arts organisations, especially in areas with little or no NPO/APW provision by ACE or ACW. Support for non- NPO/APW arts organisations accounts for up to 24% of total arts spend, demonstrating the continued support for independent and local arts provision.
  • Arts contribute to public service outcomes, with 94% of respondents supporting local economy and regeneration agendas, 86% of respondents stating that their arts services contribute to health and wellbeing outcomes; 81% stated that they contribute to stronger and safer communities; 83% contributing to equality and exclusion, and 86% contributing to education & child services.
  • Responses to job security showed that this is still a period of instability for the arts in local government, with only 18% stating their position was secure. 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 in autumn 2017. 21% however expected a significant change in roles in the coming year, demonstrating that internal reviews were continuing with the main aim of saving money.
  • There are still a high number of respondents expecting redundancies, with 28% anticipating more redundancies in 2017/18 and 32% in 2018/19. Reasons given for this include being uncertainty about the future, changing structure and changing status.
  • 49% of local authorities taking part recorded a funding decrease with a further 21% reporting standstills (without inflation). The move to contracting out services continues with 5% 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. 68% of respondents expected a funding decrease; 13% expected that their services would be contracted out; and 10% thought that their services were under threat of closure.
  • 64% of all arts and cultural services have been restructured in the last 2 years. Of those that responded positively, 58% had moved to a different department and 56% 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 average investment of ACE/ACW to local authorities from Arts Lottery grants has decreased by 20% on last year. The relationship between local authorities and ACE/ACW is however improving with 61% of respondents stating that it was active and developing. 10% stated that they had no relationship with their regional office.

Local authority finance continues to be squeezed, with many services continuing to make substantial cuts to their budgets, putting more pressure on arts development services, often affecting the most disadvantaged communities. Many services are, however, resilient or find alternative ways through outsourcing of providing arts services, but there is a limit to how much services can be stretched. 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.