Newcastle rows back from 100% arts cuts - Museums Association

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Newcastle rows back from 100% arts cuts

Independent fund to be established for arts in the city
Newcastle City Council has abandoned plans to cut 100% of its arts budget and has announced instead that it plans to establish a new annual funding stream for culture organisations.

The city council will now provide a minimum of £600,000 annually to the new fund which will be run by an independent panel. The scheme is due to launch by 2016, and revenue raised from business rates will go towards the new funding resource.

Organisations will subsequently be invited to bid for three-year funding programmes.

But in a surprise move, the council has invited businesses and high-profile personalities to contribute to the £600,000 pot.

Council leader Nick Forbes said: “This frees arts up from the boom and bust of uncertain council funding and allows others to also back the arts.”

Playwright Lee Hall told Museums Journal: “Speaking as someone who personally supports the arts, both in Newcastle and elsewhere… I think these proposals are very damaging and horribly naive. Far from encouraging individuals and institutions to support the arts he is making it much more difficult for them to attract sponsorship.”

“A 48% cuts to arts funding in Newcastle [down from the council budget of £1.5m] is clearly better than a 100% cut and arts campaigners would be entirely justified in celebrating this as a partial victory,” said Mark Tyers of the campaign group Save Newcastle Libraries.

“[However] for the foreseeable future, businesses will continue to struggle and thus be unwilling to risk making new investments, however socially important the cause.”

Loans for capital projects drawn from a separate £9m pot will be available to arts organisations that demonstrate they can raise income from commercial streams.

Arts Council England (ACE) reportedly welcomed the new funding venture. Alison Clark-Jenkins, ACE’s regional director, told local press: “What is emerging is an innovative proposal which is committed to developing alternative sustainable funding arrangements for cultural activity in the city in the medium to long term.”

The arts council told Newcastle City Council that cutting arts funding by 100% would lead ACE to review its current funding provision. At a meeting in January, both parties discussed possibilities of establishing a new joint funding model.

The council’s decision follows an announcement by the Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman that the culture and arts budget would not be decimated.

“The reality is there is not going to be a 100% cut to the arts in Newcastle. Across the board, whether it comes to capital funding or revenue funding they will be supporting the arts... they will not be cutting 100%,” she told The Guardian.

She could not be reached for further comment on the new scheme.

Budget papers for the city are, meanwhile, due to be published tomorrow afternoon.

Initial proposed cuts of £90m by the council will nonetheless significantly reduce the contribution from the City Council to Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM).

Venues managed by TWAM on behalf of the City Council (Discovery Museum and the Laing Art Gallery) are due to have their funding reduced by 48% over the next three years.

Iain Watson, TWAM director, said: “We are awaiting confirmation of Newcastle City Council's budget proposals following the consultation period which finished at the beginning of February.

"During the consultation there have been very positive discussions with Newcastle City Council about the strength of their commitment to museums and culture and it has been very gratifying to see the support of people in Newcastle for museums in the city."

12.29pm

It has been reported that Moray Council in Scotland has approved 100% cuts to its arts budget.



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