MA condemns further cuts to English local authority funding - Museums Association

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MA condemns further cuts to English local authority funding

Culture is the fourth most likely area to be cut by councils in 2015-16
The Museums Association (MA) has condemned further reductions to local government funding in England for 2015-16, warning that the cuts are likely to result in the closure of council-run museums.

Overall local authority spending power in England - which includes money raised through council tax and business rates - is set to fall an average of 1.8% next year, according to the provisional finance settlement for 2015-16 published last week by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Museums could be in the firing line as a DCLG survey of local authorities published alongside the finance settlement found that culture is the fourth most likely area to be cut next year.

An MA statement said: “While each local authority will decide how to impose the new cuts, DCLG’s own survey shows that cultural services are the fourth most threatened area for new cuts by councils in England. This is in spite of the fact that the contribution that cuts to cultural services are able to make to the total savings required is miniscule – just 3% in 2013.”

Sharon Heal, the director of the MA, said she was concerned that the public would suffer as a result.

“The economic, educational and wellbeing benefits that museums provide to local communities could be at risk as a result of these cuts," Heal said. "Local authority museums are adapting to changed circumstances and finding new ways to raise income but there is only so much that can be done before cuts impact on frontline services.”

In the MA's most recent cuts survey, several respondents warned that their museum services would be unable to sustain any further reductions in funding.

According to government figures, 20 authorities are set to receive the maximum reduction of 6.4% in their spending power next year, including a number in areas with high levels of deprivation such as Hackney in London and Preston in Lancashire.

Responding to the finance settlement, councils warned that they would be unable to protect non-statutory services. “Essential services will continue but obviously it is the services on the margins that will suffer from continual cuts,” said a Hackney council spokesman.

The government’s figures have been criticised by other representative bodies, who said the settlement masked the true scale of funding reductions faced by councils.

A spokesman from the Local Government Association (LGA) said the government’s calculation was “a bit misleading” because the finance settlement figures included some health and social care funding streams over which councils have no discretionary power.

In a briefing last week, the LGA said that local governments faced an average 8.8% cut to the amount of grant given directly to them, with funding expected to fall by approximately £2.6bn next year.

The LGA said the impact of cuts on services would be more noticeable next year as councils were running out of efficiency savings. Local government spending power has fallen 40% since 2010, and in a recent LGA survey, 60% of councils warned they could cut some services altogether next year.

“Councils are trying as best they can but after four years it is getting to the point where the room for manoeuvre is much more limited and efficiency savings are not enough,” said the LGA spokesman.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) also questioned the government’s figures, saying its own analysis had found that councils' overall spending power would fall by 6% next year, while the central government grant to local government would fall by 14.6%.

Cipfa warned that cuts were falling hardest on areas of greatest need, with council spending power eroded by 7.8% in the north-east, compared with 3.4% in the wealthier south-east.

The government will have cut £20bn from local authority budgets in England by the end of this parliament.

In its briefing, the LGA said: “Continuing reductions of the same order to the end of the decade, as set out by the Office for Budget Responsibility and by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, are unsustainable.”

Links

MA response to local government finance settlement for England 2015-16

MA Cuts Survey 2014



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