Thursday, 11 November 2010

Arts Cuts #4 - Digest

A small, incomplete and subjective digest of what's going on.

The Arts Council of England has announced a National Portfolio system to replace its Regularly Funded system. Regularly Funded organisations can be found here.

The National Portfolio system means
the potential loss of more than 100 organisations by 2015. This is preferable to maintaining a large portfolio that will be progressively debilitated by cuts over the course of the settlement.
(the Regularly Funded orgnaisations have been given a blanket 6.9% cut whilst applications - as all organisations must now apply - for the new National Portfolio are taken.)

Guardian Arts Columnist Charlotte Higgins makes an interesting point about this central cut in a speech she is giving at the Paul Hamlyn Foundation awards tonight.
Well, George Osborne's announcing a cut of 15% to the arts really was quite breathtaking, wasn't it – when the actual cut to Arts Council England's budget was 30%.
She goes on to argue that the the difference is but a semantic discussion about where the cuts will happen. Osborne's 15% is meant to be limited to the 'front line', but the rest must come elsewhere. She suspects this means the smaller grassroots organisations that feed this 'front line' of performing and exhibiting artists.

Clearly the ACE doesn't see that it has an internal way of reducing its outgoings. Is it then not a quango, the same type of organisation that the Government is trying to trim back?

Talking of centralising funding distributors, there's an interesting piece in tonight's London Evening Standard about London Libraries. Councils are preparing cuts but the Managing Director of Waterstones, Tim Coates (who is also chairman of the Libraries for Life for London campaign) has this suggestion:
It costs £200 million to run London's libraries and of that only £11 million is spent on books. You could save £50 million by handing them to the Mayor's office. There are currently 33 sets of management. It is a complete waste of money.
My first reaction was positive at this potential saving. There's a problem though. If one takes decision-making away from councils and puts it in the hands of the larger, centralised Mayor's office, is a new, delegated unit for dealing with libraries inevitable? In other words there will be, by necessity another quango in place of the more direct, tailored, borough-aware office that is the council.

I suspect I haven't quite got my own head around these manoeuvres, but the spending reviews has clearly kicked up a lot of dust that's not settling.

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