Labour: Arts cuts have led to a “scaling back of ideas, innovation and creativity”

Reaction to the Arts Council’s strategic funding plan, and an explanation of why the government’s 30 per cent cuts to the arts budget are economically insane.

Shadow culture minister Dan Jarvis today said the Arts Council’s strategic funding plan, which signalled a halt to new buildings and galleries, left the arts feeling like a “second-rate” sector and risked Britain falling behind other nations who are “investing in art continuously”.

The “scaling back of ideas, innovation and creativity”, as Labour describe it, is a consequence of the 30 per cent cut in the arts budget announced by George Osborne in the comprehensive spending review last autumn, that will see the Arts Council’s grant of £449 million drop to £349m by 2014.

The Arts Council’s plan, which details how it will invest £400 million between 2012 and 2015, follows March’s annoucement of which organisations will receive funding – leading to 206 of them having their funding applications rejected.

Jarvis said:

“The Arts Council has been backed into a very difficult position… Under this government, the Arts Council’s role will be to mainly renew and maintain existing galleries but without the ability to commission new ones, meaning we run the risk of falling behind other nations who are at investing in art continuously.

“The decisions made by this Tory-led government have meant that the Arts Council has to formulate a strategy based on scaling back the budget, and in turn this is leading to a scaling back of the ideas, innovation and creativity which was so prominent under Labour.

“Whilst I know that there is a real need to focus on existing infrastructure, my concern is that The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, the Turner contemporary in Margate, the Firstsite in Colchester and the Baltic in Gateshead – none of them would have happened and none of them will happen again under this government.”

While of the gloomy future ahead for the arts, the shadow culture minister adds:

“There is a fundamental lack of vision emanating from the department for Culture, Media and Sport at present and it is deeply worrying to me and many, many others.

“This government have continually failed to grasp the importance of the Arts and the social and economic value it has to offer. The government has treated the arts like a second-rate sector and I think yesterday’s announcement proves that the Arts Council is trying to make the best of a very bad situation.”

As Jarvis says, the government’s cuts to the arts are not just culturally objectionable but economically insane.

For a clear explanation why this short-sighted decision is so abhorrent, watch this excellent video from Channel Four’s 10 O’Clock Live, first broadcast in March but just as relevant today:

Insightful stuff, but, if anything, Lauren Laverne actually understates the case, as the Arts & Cuts blog explains:

Laverne’s final claim was that:

“For every one pound invested by the Arts Council into arts organisations, two are generated for the UK economy.”

A&C rummaged about and found a report by Arts and Business entitled “Private Investment in Culture, 2007-08″, available for download here.

The not-for-profit organisation, which aims to encourage and assist businesses to invest in arts projects, found that:

“In 2006/07 the private sector invested £599 million in culture, in the same year the public sector in the UK spent in the order of £1.6 billion. Together (£2.2billion) they helped the cultural sector produce £7.7 billion in GVA (Gross Value Added) to the economy.”

Slap 7.7/2.2 into your calculator and you’ll get 3.5. For every one pound invested into the arts, three pounds and fifty pence was generated for the UK economy. If anything, what we’ve turned up in an evening’s Googling provides stronger evidence than Lauren did that the arts need to be supported.

With the government finally acknowledging this week that there is such a thing as the multiplier – with the announcement on Monday of £1 billion of public money to create 35,000 jobs to “kickstart the economy” – isn’t it time they realised the value, on every level, of investing in the arts?

See also:

Coalition cuts are deeper and faster than Tea Party’sWill Straw, August 2nd 2011

Public support for cuts down compared to last yearClaire French, July 12th 2011

British fashion’s got the talent, but have we got the funding?Shelly Asquith, February 24th 2011

The economic madness of abolishing the UK Film CouncilPhil Burton-Cartledge, July 29th 2010

Much ado about music lessonsTehmina Kazi, July 17th 2010

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