Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by the Musicians’ Union (arts 104)

1. The Musicians’ Union (MU) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s inquiry into the funding of the Arts and Heritage .

2. We represent over 30,000 musicians working in all genres of music. As well as negotiating on behalf of our members with all the major employers in the industry, we also offer a range of services tailored for the self-employed by providing assistance for professional and student musicians of all ages.

3. We are responding to this consultation in order to protect funding for the arts, especially in the context of the widespread cuts that are already being put into place and which are already impacting on our members.

4. The arts are vitally important to the UK’s economy . The UK has the largest cultural economy in the world relative to GDP, and every £1 invested in culture produces £2. Two thirds of the adult popu lation in the UK enjoy the arts and m usic on its own contributes nearly £5 billion to the UK economy.

5. Between 1997 and 2006 the creative economy grew faster than any other sector, accounting for 2 million jobs and £16.6 billion of exports in 2007. Arts and culture are also central to tourism in the UK: this was worth £86 billion in 2007 - 3.7% of GDP - and directly employed 1.4 million people. Inbound tourism is a vital export earner for the UK economy, worth £16.3 billion to the UK economy in 2008.

6. At a time when our general economy is struggling, it seems illogical to cut spending and therefore cause permanent damage to the arts – which is one area that has consistently maintained growth.

7. In addition, the cultural sector has made a real contribution to the country’s social and economic recovery through offering work, learning, training and social engagement. The arts represent the creative future on which Britain’s economy depends.

8. And yet the new coalition Government has already asked Arts Council England (ACE) to make cuts of £19 million to its budget and the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review could force DCMS to make cuts of more than 25% to its budget. If cuts of 25% or more are passed on to ACE, jobs in the creative sector will undoubtedly be at risk.

9. Any such cuts to such a small budget would cause disproportionate damage to organisations and creators. They will have a real impact on the frontline and will cost far more that the extremely small sums they save government overall. This is because cuts in local authority funding, a reduction in private sector support and escalating running costs will create the 'perfect storm' for many successful organisations that operate on the mixed economy model.

10. Any cuts that do take place need to be spread intelligently over four years so that they can be managed in the best way. Any dramatic cut in funding in 2011/12 will hit organisations hardest in the Olympics year and it will take many years to recover.

11. Indeed, with the Olympics coming up in 2012, it is essential that Britain’s cultural institutions and attractions continue to deliver the quality and range of programmes that are admired across the world. In order for this to happen, there must be continued investment in the arts. The cultural budget is tiny compared to other departments – it represents only 1% of the NHS budget.

12. The arts sector does, however, recognise the need to contribute to the economic recovery - and has already sustained significant cuts (£112.5 million of Arts Council Lottery funding has been diverted to the Olympics, in addition to the in-year Grant-in-aid cuts). However, there is a point at which the operating models of many organisations will have to be radically reappraised, and some will not have that option. There is a tipping point of 10-15% for most arts organisations .

13. For contracted organisations, cuts quickly translate into a reduction in contracted workforce. Thanks to significant Stabilisation investment and other organisational development support these organisations have finally reached a point where they have sustainable business models, after many years of instability. Upsetting these finely balanced models has potential to tip these organisations back into crisis.

14. For the majority of organisations, cuts will force a reduced programme of work, which translates directly into a loss of jobs in a mainly freelance workforce. Cuts to all organisations will also threaten much of their social and community work, which benefits the wider society.

15. If the creative sectors must make cuts, the main priority must be to protect jobs. We believe that it would be preferable for ACE to rein in artistic ambition and the funding of new projects in the short term in order to maintain frontline services and jobs for the future.

16. The arts will undoubtedly have to get better at new ways of doing things - for example, making philanthropic giving much more effective for the arts. However, this cannot be done overnight and changes and incentives will have to be put in place.

17. Although philanthropy can perhaps play a bigger part in arts funding in future, it would be irresponsible to remove secure public funding in its favour. Th e example of America, where a number of orchestras and other arts organisations collapsed when donations and legacies lost value, should serve as a warning to us. We believe that the current system of arts funding is amongst the best in the world and that it should be protected at all costs.

18. The Arts Council provides as fair and as direct a method of funding as is possible – any delegation to other bodies would create additional layers of artistic subjectivity which would be unhelpful to overall levels of funding in the sector.

19. We could list hundreds of organisations which rely on the Arts Council for funding. Orchestras, for example, rely on the Arts Council grants and most would fold immediately if this money was withdrawn or, in some cases, even reduced. If we want the orchestral sector to continue to thrive and be internationally competitive as it undoubtedly is at the moment, arts funding must be protected .

20. We would welcome the opportunity to give oral evidence to the Committee if required.

September 2010