British Council work with developed countries under review

But no decisions reached on future of museum programmes
Patrick Steel
The British Council is reviewing its developed countries work following the announcement of a cut to zero for its developed countries grant-in-aid.

According to the British Council’s Corporate Plan 2017-20, its developed countries grant-in-aid will fall from £25m this year to zero in 2019-20.

It is still unclear whether museum initiatives such as the International Museum Academy or the Cultural Protection Fund, both of which involve a number of UK museums, will be affected as a result of the cut.

The council’s plan also includes £314m from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) Empowerment Fund over four years, but the fund was frozen in July by Mark Sedwill, prime minister Theresa May’s national security adviser, who is leading a review of spending through the fund.

A British Council spokeswoman said: “It has been proposed that from 2019-20 government funding for our work in countries with developed economies is due to reduce to £0. This means that we will only be able to fund this work from the earned income from our teaching and exams operations.

“While we will still be able to fund a minimal level of activity in the developed world, this will affect our work in these countries and for support for the arts and education sectors across the UK. Our culture and education activities in countries with developing economies will continue to be well-supported by the core grant-in-aid.

“Any decisions about our work or specific programmes in developed economies will come from the on-going non-ODA review, which we are conducting with the FCO.

As such, going into any level of detail at this stage would be premature. In the meantime, we remain committed to our international cultural work: it is core to our purpose.”

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: “We are committed to projecting UK influence around the world, including through the valuable work of the British Council.

“We are aware of the potential impact of providing the British Council with more overseas development assistance as part of its grant. We are currently working with the British Council to deliver the manifesto commitment of putting it on a secure footing, recognising the tight fiscal climate and the importance of delivering Brexit.

According to the British Council’s corporate plan: “There remains a risk and a challenge to deliver our work in the developed world. Compared with our previous plan we estimate there will be at least £62m less funding available for developed countries from 2016–17 to 2020–21.”

The plan also identifies the UK’s decision to leave the EU as making the purchasing power of its sterling grant-in-aid overseas up to 20% lower, while offices across its global network face rises in the cost of doing business due to increases in tax, inflationary pressures and the revaluation of national currencies such as the Egyptian Pound.

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