UK Arts Policy


painting art

For a long period, the local government was one of the strongest supporters of arts and culture in the UK. These councils supported every cultural aspect including public libraries, municipal galleries, music and art education and festivals. Even today the local government is one of the most prominent funders of arts and cultural activities, which is proved by the fact that its contribution even higher than the input of Arts Council England. Unfortunately, that support is now at risk. Lately, the direct funding from local government to the arts and culture has been under huge pressure as austerity bites.

Local Authority Funding for Arts and Culture

Being under pressure of spending across the board the local authority expenditure on art and culture became threatened. For instance, Department for Communities and Local Government presented the figures from 2010 to 2015, which demonstrate that total spending by councils in England on arts and culture development and support has dropped from £1.42 billion to £1.2 billion. This means that local government had 16.6% of reduction concerning that matter.

However, since they still spent more than a billion pounds on arts and culture, it is right to believe that their cuts are significant even now. Their investments have almost evenly fallen across each of three major cultural areas, with the libraries suffering slightly more than museums and galleries. Although the latter two may be smaller regarding expenses, the impact has been significant. This means that one in five regional museums has closed, or they are planning to close.

These cuts imply that the local authorities are trying to be efficient on account of cultural projects, and some of these councils are starting to be even more radical. For example, London boroughs were hit the most with 19% drop between 2010 and 2015. On the other hand, shire counties received the smallest reduction of 15%.

Furthermore, cuts are not the same across the country which can be seen by spending the authorities in the South West with cuts around 15% and in the East and West Midlands with spending reduced by 19% over the course of five years. Despite the cuts and the unpopular efficiency policy, councils across England remain major supporters of culture and art. Therefore, it is necessary to find other sources of revenues. Otherwise, the funding available for these activities will possibly slowly disappear in the following period.

Impact on Arts and Culture Organisations

As it is previously mentioned, there are plenty of sources of support other than local authorities. These institutions include fund-raisers with both commercial and philanthropic activities incomes. It is necessary to known that all arts and cultural organisations are able to call upon the support of the Arts Council England (ACE), which represents the cultural backbone of the UK. This organisation in future period will invest almost £1 billion in 663 ‘national portfolio organisations’. Over the period from 2010 to 2015 the total resourcing of NPOs was increased by 17%, exactly from £1.14 billion to £1.33 billion. For instance, in 2010 5% of NPO funding in London was from local authorities, while in 2015 this funding came down to 3%, while the 12% in the three northern regions came down to 7%.

In addition, ACE provides regular funding for Major Partner Museums (MPMs), which is a responsibility they have received from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). From 2012 to 2015, this funding made around £20 million per year. While the proportion of MPM funding coming from local government has fallen on a national level from 26.3% in 2012/13 to 25.5% in 2014/15), the total income of NPOs has risen in every area except the South East. These trends suggest that the correlation between councils and arts and cultural institutions is significantly changing. This means that some other ways should be found if we still want councils to support arts and culture.

Diversifying Income and Making the Most of the Devolution

It is important to admit that local government in England still has a very significant part in the funding of the arts and culture and even despite the considerable cuts over the past several years they are still interested in arts and cultural activity. However, these cuts cannot be simply ignored and neglected, since many institutions have no other suitable way to fund their activities and services. Even though there are many institutions that have been able to compensate for the loss of local authorities funding, others were able to experience certain difficulties which caused even closing of some museums and galleries. However, it will be necessary to find resources for funding cultural institutions in order to protect what is left of it, even though it will be hard since the funding environment becomes equally difficult in the UK and many countries across the Europe.