Dire consequences of imminent cuts in the arts industry
Over the past two years we have watched private industries taking a beating; we have seen businesses closing and people losing their jobs. Now it seems, in the words of our new Chancellor, it is the turn of the public sector to “face a similar trade-off ”. In other words, it is our turn to bear the brunt of the forthcoming budget cuts, and for the arts that is a truly terrifying thought.
As a sector we already operate on extremely tight budgets, the Arts Council England’s (ACE) total budget for the year is less than one tenth of one per cent of overall public spending. Thus, it seems to me, that cuts to the arts industry’s already miniscule budgets would prove to be an exercise in futility. The impact these “savings” will have on the country’s deficit would be a drop in the ocean, but they have the potential to close theatres, shut touring companies, reduce funds for new commissions, halt education and community initiatives and stop the nurturing and development of new work and talent.
It is this creativity that is often the pulsating heart of a city. Take Leeds for example, the Playhouse, the Grand, City Varieties, the Henry Moore Institute, the Carriageworks, Leeds City Art Gallery, Leeds City Museum and so on are the very things that make the city vibrant and exciting. In the UK we are fortunate to have an arts industry with an international reputation, so let’s not lose it. We just need to take a look at the Tony Awards and the success of British actors, productions, technical teams and theatres to see the impact our cultural industries have on the global stage. VAT alone from England’s theatres generates more than three times ACE’s annual investment in the sector. The West End has reported rocketing profits and here at West Yorkshire Playhouse we have welcomed 18,000 new people to the building over the last year and have seen our box office income increase by seven per cent. It seems that budget cuts are inevitable, and on Tuesday George Osborne announced that government departments not including health, education and defence would be expected to find savings of 25 per cent over the next four years. If these cuts are to be made from ACE, then I hope that they are handled wisely and with due consideration.
ACE has already suffered a disproportionate cut of four per cent from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport last month, with most other organisations (such as The UK Film Council and national museums) losing only three per cent of their budgets. This four per cent equates to £19m of savings which in turn has been a reduction to all regularly funded org anisations of 0.5 per cent, of which West Yorkshire Playhouse is one. In addition to this we have already been subject to a cut in our funding from Leeds City Council of five per cent equating to about £45 000. This is huge and as of yet we have no idea what is to come. All that we and our counterparts across the UK can do is plan for the worst, hope for the best and be as creative as we possibly can.