Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by the Arts Development Officer for Gloucestershire County Council (arts 213)


· This letter is sent in my professional capacity as Arts Development Officer for Gloucestershire County Council, and has been agreed by the Council ‘s Cabinet Member for culture.

· We believe recent and future funding cuts from central and local government will have an extremely damaging effect and threaten the closure of some of the principal professional arts organisations across Gloucestershire.

· Gloucestershire County Council, jointly with Arts Council SW, has recently provided modest funding to enable a consortium of arts providers to explore closer collaborative working. The Council is considering outsourcing its arts development budgets to the consortium on a tapering basis over the next three years, in order to support capacity building via collaborative working.

· We strongly support the restoration of National Lottery funds to the original good causes including the arts, and have responded to the recent DCMS consultation exercise accordingly.

· We believe tax incentives will be helpful to enhance funding from business and philanthropists, because few Gloucestershire arts providers have the dedicated specialist staff to pull in such funding at present.

1. What impact recent, and future, spending cuts from central and local Government will have on the arts at a national and local level

1.2 From my perspective as Arts Development Officer of Gloucestershire County Council, working daily with the dozen principal professional arts providers across the county, I believe recent and future cuts will have an extremely damaging effect, and threaten the closure of some of these highly valued local charities.

1.3 Arts Council England SW currently fund c.£1.2m p.a. to the 11 principal regularly funded organisations (RFOs) within Gloucestershire, as well as providing Lottery funding to a number of smaller projects and programmes. They have now had a 5% grant in aid in-year cut (£23m). By using its historic reserves (a non repeatable strategy), Arts Council has this year limited the funding reduction to RFOs to just 0.5%, which is absorbable. But Arts Council has now been asked by DCMS to model a 25-30% cut (= £134m p.a.) across four years, which, they state, would mean the loss of many arts organisations – large and small. We fear the most severe effects will be felt in a largely rural county such as Gloucestershire, which has a network of smaller voluntary sector arts providers, who would inevitably be more vulnerable than the larger regional flagship centres.

1.4 At county level, Gloucestershire County Council currently invests a total of £177,000 p.a. in grant in aid, plus £104,000 in salaries, supporting a team of three arts officers, two of which attract Arts Council matching support.

1.5 The County Council now faces a massive deficit, created through a combination of rising costs (demographics; rising landfill taxes; rising child protection costs) and declining income. It is consequently reviewing every area of spend within the Council and, although budget decisions will not be taken until October/November, following public consultation, it is highly likely that all the above funding will be cut from 1st April next year.

1.6 Four of the six Gloucestershire district councils, who have hitherto formed the third major funding partner for Gloucestershire arts providers, have either withdrawn such funding, or notified their decision to do so by 2012.

1.7 The combined impact of these cuts will certainly threaten the viability of many of Gloucestershire’s smaller arts organisations. Those that have a higher proportion of self generated income will weather the storm. Cheltenham Arts Festivals, for example, have a highly skilled team dedicated to securing sponsorship, and last year only 18% of their income came from public sector funding. Some organisations own buildings from which they can earn revenue: Stroud Valleys Art Space is an artist led initiative which, through hard work and enterprise, has refurbished and now owns a formerly derelict factory in Stroud. It now offers affordable studios for artists. Sadly, what is likely to be lost will be the public benefit work of these organisations – the high quality, locally appropriate community education work which Arts Council and local authority funding has hitherto supported. The impact of this loss will be felt within Gloucestershire by the most vulnerable groups, because our funding to these arts providers has been targeted to support education and outreach activity to disadvantaged young people, those with disabilities and special needs, the elderly and those lacking access. It is this work, and the smaller arts charities for whom it is the principal focus, which will not be viable, faced with withdrawal of funding from County, District and the Arts Council. In our view, the viability of four or five of the current eleven principal providers will be seriously be at risk.

2. What arts organisations can do to work more closely together in order to reduce duplication of effort and to make economies of scale

2.1 Gloucestershire County Council strongly support this objective and, to this end, jointly with Arts Council SW, we have provided £4,000 to enable Gloucestershire Arts Framework, a consortium of arts providers, to work with a locally based consultant to explore closer collaborative working. The results of this work will be reported to us after 16th September. If they are substantive, the Council may consider outsourcing its arts development budgets to the consortium on a tapering basis over the next three years, after which all funding would cease. The aim would be to support capacity building within the sector so that, by the end of three years, it is more "commission ready" and maximising earned income to replace lost local authority income, as part of a managed process of change. This arts specific work complements a larger scale exercise across all cultural services within Gloucestershire, delivered by both county and district authorities, which is examining whether cross-cultural countywide services can deliver better outcomes at lower costs, via a new cultural commissioning body for the whole county. It is our belief that the cultural sector is not yet taking advantage of the significant opportunities available via commissioning from health, social care and children’s service budgets.

2.2 Although the results of the arts sector work will not be published until September 16th, we have been encouraged by the engagement of the sector thus far. Despite the daily pressures on these small scale and overstretched charities, they have nevertheless committed to a serious attempt at partnership working, while still seeking to retain their own brand and identity, in recognition of the threat to their viability which they now face. From being a loosely networked talking shop, the consortium is now working towards the following outcomes.

· Shared "behind the scenes" services whereby one provider offers box office services to smaller scale or touring organisations; or building based venues offer hot desks to non-venue based agencies.

· Joint marketing of artistic productions by providing space in brochures for other organisations; audience swopping, or developing cross-artform packages of participative opportunities for commissioners.

· Joint productions, e.g. joint programming of art in unusual places; shared commissioning of a new performance, or a joint outreach offer to young people.

· A single portal to the arts for commissioning bodies.

· The formation of one or two consortia of "commission ready" arts organisations which share common policies including quality assurance, evaluation and finances.

· Off the shelf cross-artform packages ready to sell to teachers, GPs and social care providers.

· Joint mapping of the gaps in the arts offer across the county – and programmes devised to fill them.

· Development of a "Friends of Gloucestershire Arts" scheme of patrons and champions.

· Recruitment of a team of high calibre cultural volunteers to add capacity.

· Joint delivery of a county wide arts event to showcase talent.

2.3 Overall the aim is to secure more non-arts funding and to maximise earned income; to use this to nurture talent; to consolidate and grow audiences and participants; and to articulate better the value of this work through improving the evidence base.

2.4 The ambition is high and the resources to realise it very limited, but we hope this Council will agree to phasing its necessary budget reductions in a way which supports this collaborative working model. This is because we recognise the value of the current arts infrastructure, a network of small scale providers who are rooted in their locations, with real knowledge of local needs, and whose locally distinctive and targeted programmes offer better outcomes for local communities than could any single larger scale provider.

We would be happy to provide further information on this collaborative work as it rolls out over the next few months, if desired.

3. What impact recent changes to the distribution of National Lottery funds will have on arts organisations

3.1 We strongly support the restoration of Nationally Lottery funds to the original good causes, including the arts, and have responded to the recent DCMS consultation exercise on National Lottery distribution accordingly.

3.2 Lottery funds provide the resources for Arts Council SW’s Grants for the Arts scheme. This is currently the only open to application scheme available to the arts sector in Gloucestershire to support new development initiatives. As such, it is of critical importance.

3.3 The current average success rate for Grants for the Arts is about 40%. In the past, it has dipped as low as 21%. Gloucestershire scores relatively well, given its size, because we have a network of professional arts organisations who are skilled and energetic fundraisers, and our application rate is high. But, for the same reason, there are many disappointments. Over the past couple of years, several very strong applications have been turned down by Arts Council, with feedback explicitly stating that the only grounds for refusal were shortage of funds. When this happens regularly, it can be extremely demotivating, causing real loss of morale within the sector. Enhancing Grants for the Arts funding so that sound, well researched applications which fully meet the requisite criteria were funded would be enormously beneficial. Such development funding is really the enterprise capital for the sector, and its lifeblood. It is also critically important in unlocking further funding.

4. Whether business and philanthropy can play a long term role in funding the arts at national and local level.

Whether there need to be more government incentives to encourage private donations.

4.1 There may well be potential to increase funding to the sector from the sources, but it is our view that tax incentives would be needed to bring about significant change. We highly value the work of Arts & Business, and warmly acknowledge the tremendous voluntary fundraising work of arts charities and festivals such as the Gloucester Three Choirs festival, which has just raised £320,000 towards its £750,000 costs in this way. But fundraising on a meaningful scale these days requires skilled professional teams. Few of the smaller Gloucestershire arts providers currently have the dedicated specialist staff in place to pull in such business and philanthropic funding, and it is our observation that, with the exception of Cheltenham Arts Festivals, few of the smaller Gloucestershire arts providers gain a significant percentage of their income from such sources at present.

September 2010