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Arts funding in Wales cut by 30%

12 Jun 2024 5 minute read
National Youth Arts Wales production rehearsal. Image copyright Kirsten McTernan

New research commissioned by Equity, the performing arts and entertainment trade union shows that funding for the arts in Wales from national bodies has dropped by 30% in real terms since 2017 – the highest amount seen in any country in the UK.

The research, carried out by the Autonomy Institute, shows that overall arts funding for the UK from national bodies (Arts Councils England, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales and Creative Scotland) has been cut 16% in real terms since 2017.

Funding in Wales dropped by 30%, in England 11%, and in Northern Ireland 16%. It increased in Scotland by 2%.

It is possible to see how arts funding has changed for each constituency using the Arts Funding Tracker on the Equity website.

For instance, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s constituency Richmond and Northallerton has seen a 10% cut to average annual real terms funding since 2014 (with data for constituencies going further back than 2017).

According to the trade union, the figures underline the need to defend and extend funding for the arts, with Equity calling on members (who work in the performing arts and entertainment industry) to contact their local Parliamentary candidates seeking commitments for this alongside four other demands (detailed below) in the run up to the General Election, as part of the union’s campaign to Stop the Cuts and Save the Arts.


Paul W Fleming, Equity General Secretary, says: “Equity’s members have faced central government austerity in the arts and entertainment industries for 20 years under governments of every shade.

“Our five election demands – addressed to candidates of all mainstream parties – put reversing the erosion of funding at the top of the list.

“The other four of our demands focus on the rights of our precarious, freelance membership. We need a government which supports our members, and all working people, to get their fair share of the profits they create.

“There are no creative industries without its workforce, it’s time they were empowered and valued as much by Westminster as they are by audiences across the globe.”

World leading

Equity member and actress Imelda Staunton says: “We’re living in a golden age of drama, especially on streaming platforms, thanks to the exceptional ability of the UK arts workforce to bring world class storytelling to global audiences.

“But too many places in the UK have been left without arts funding, depriving audiences and performers alike.

“With proper funding, there is no limit to the potential for the arts to inspire and entertain, encouraging both human creativity and economic benefits.

“I want to see all parties promising much more on the arts. They are not just a ‘nice to have’, they are essential to the thriving, confident country we all want to live in.”


Equity member and actress Olivia Colman says: “Billions of people the world over want to watch stories created by UK artists on their screens and stages.

“Yet Equity’s research shows how government funding for the arts has been falling for decades. It is shocking to see how this key sector of the economy, and its workforce,  has been neglected, despite its huge contribution to the UK’s standing in the world, and our public life.

“A lack of government funding increasingly means that only the wealthy can afford a ticket to the show, or to build a career working in the industry.

“Only some people are able to share in the stories being told.

“Equity’s analysis demonstrates that whoever wins the coming election must urgently bring forward plans to invest in the arts and entertainment here. This is just common sense.”

Equity’s demands

  1. Increase UK arts & entertainment funding to 0.5% of GDP.

Bring the UK into line with the European average for arts funding, and provide £1bn of new funding for the devolved nations.

  1. Scrap the ‘tax on hope’.

End the legal exemption which allows casting directories to charge upfront fees to performing artists.

  1. Abolish the Minimum Income Floor.

Reform Universal Credit to provide freelancers with the same protections as the employed.

  1. Require all publicly funded work to be produced on Equity agreements.

Ensure that any arts and entertainment work which receives public subsidy – including government tax breaks – is made on union-agreed terms and conditions.

      5.  Defend and extend trade union bargained royalties.

Ratify the Beijing treaty to give unions a statutory right to bargain from – including in un-unionised areas like video-games and TV commercials.


The data was retrieved through Freedom of Information requests submitted to every arts council in the UK.

Parliamentary constituencies were updated to match the current constituencies and adjusted for inflation.

Autonomy computed the figures via linear regression, to adjust for spikes in funding and allow them to map trends at a constituency level over time. You can find out more about the methodology here.

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Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
1 month ago

Bit by bit, Tory austerity (soon to be perpetuated by Labour) is eating away at every facet of our lives. Support for the Arts is crucial. Encouraging creativity is fundamental to a civil society. There are many spin offs to our economy in the form of employment and business related innovation. It is very short-sighted to underfund the Arts in Cymru.

David C
David C
1 month ago

Arts and creativity are the antidote to do many of the ills of a crumbling society. They add so much to our lives, they enrich and elevate. It is a sign of an impoverished nation, financially and mentally, that cuts like these are somehow acceptable. It’s a national disgrace that libraries, arts, culture are such easy targets for money saving.
Trotting out a make voice choir, Tom Jones and hiding behind dated stereotypes about the land of song seems to be our limits as a nation.

Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards
1 month ago

It may not be those horrible Tories. Could be closer to home – see Jac o’ the North.

1 month ago

Am I shocked? Ofcourse I’m not! It’s to be expected at this point. Wales oh Wales! Why do we put up with it?

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