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‘Deep concern’ over arts funding cuts in Wales

20 Dec 2023 6 minute read
Photo by Nation.Cymru

Martin Shipton

The arts community in Wales has expressed deep concern for the sector following the announcement of a proposed 10.5% cut in funding to the Arts Council of Wales.

Creu Cymru, which represents virtually all of the nation’s theatres, performing arts companies and arts centres made an urgent call for an end to the downward trend in public investment for culture in Wales.

A spokesperson for Creu Cymru said: “The creative industries in Wales provide 80,000 jobs, with the music, performing and visual arts sector employing more than 7,000 people across the country, and has an annual turnover of about £4bn. They make a vital contribution to our health and well-being, national economy, and international reputation. The return on investment in the cultural sector, in terms of economic, social, and international benefits, far outweighs the current levels of expenditure.

“It makes no economic sense to reduce investment in a sector which generates £1.40 additional spend for local economies for every £1 spent on a theatre ticket, adding up to £1.94bn per annum of extra value added to local economies by theatre audiences. Compared with the start of the decade, Welsh Government funding of the Arts Council of Wales in 2020 was 21% lower than investment in 2009/10.

“We urge the Welsh Government to honour their commitment to culture and the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act and follow up their exemplary support of the sector in response to the impact of Covid-19. This is a particularly difficult moment for both freelancers, who can make up to 70% of our workforce, and for organisations – with ongoing recovery from the pandemic, cost of living, energy costs, long-term underfunding, including significant reduction from local authorities over the last decade, and the fallout from the Investment Review alongside a crumbling infrastructure all contributing to a very challenging landscape.

Wales Millennium Centre

The Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay is looking at reduced opening times and a cut in non-commercial activity.

Michelle Perez, general manager of Theatr Iolo, said: “A 10% cut would have a dramatic impact on Theatr Iolo. It would equate to one redundancy of a staff member from our already small core team of five people. Or it would mean at least one of our studio touring shows would have to be cut each year. This reduction in our programme would mean reaching less and less children across the whole of Wales with live theatre and cultural activities, including the children who live in areas of significantly less investment or who are disadvantaged in some way.”

David Wilson, director of Aberystwyth Arts Centre said “Following a funding standstill outcome from the Investment Review we were already doing all we can to mitigate the impact of the resultant real terms cuts. The news of this further cut is increasingly disheartening for Aberystwyth Arts Centre and for cultural life in mid Wales. If we receive a reduction of 10%, it will take us back to the level of financial support we had in 2007.”

Geinor Styles, artistic director of Theatr na nÓg, said: “Our original funding offer was already a cut in real terms. A 10% cut to our funding offer is a 40% cut in reality and will have a devastating impact on our work. Losing another c.£32k means we would need to cut our provision to young people, our Welsh language work or our main scale touring. As a small, producing company we don’t have the resources in-house to go after further funding. If we can’t find the money then the board and senior management will have to make some difficult decisions as to how we continue.
“In a country that values the arts and the contribution it makes for future generations, on its well-being and the Welsh language, further cuts will be detrimental to achieving its aims.”

Recruitment freeze

There is already a recruitment freeze across many organisations and it is believed that across the sector there could be anything from 3-10% job losses from salaried staff and a knock-on effect to the freelance workforce.

The Creu Cymru spokesperson said: “The culture sector has been in a steady decline for over a decade due to the erosion caused by standstill funding. By taking decisive action on culture spend and investment in its budget for 2024-25, the Welsh Government would ensure its long-term recovery, secure Wales’ place as a cultural world leader and unlock enormous benefits for Wales’s society and economy.

“The Welsh Government has an annual budget of 21bn. The Arts Council of Wales received £33.3m in 2023/24, a 1.5% decrease from the previous year. Cultural spending as a proportion of the Welsh Government Budget represents less than 0.15% of total overall expenditure – one of the lowest in Europe, where the average is 1.5% with some reaching 2.5%.

“We encourage the Welsh Government to continue to collaborate with the UK government in securing cultural tax reliefs, and to support the sector in making the case for their permanent extension.

“We urge the Welsh Government to recognise the value and impacts of the culture sector, that it has a workforce that has been experiencing consistently low and fixed pay levels and a freelance workforce that is particularly precarious and vulnerable, and to work collaboratively to deliver solutions to secure its sustainable future such as a commitment to no further cuts and to work with the sector to find solutions that meet the needs of the sector while providing meaningful experiences and changing the lives of the people in Wales.”

Challenging

Dafydd Rhys, the chief executive of the Arts Council of Wales, said: “Our current budget is lower than it was in 2010 which means that we have already lost a third of our real-terms funding since then. This significant new cut of 10.5% will make it even more challenging to ensure that high quality arts activity is available across Wales for all of our communities. The invaluable work that we support in arts and health, education, the Welsh language and our work in widening engagement will be affected – all of which are Government priorities. In fact this provisional budget of £30.429m for 2024/25 is the lowest since 2007/08.

“It’s worth noting that approximately 90% of the funding we receive is distributed all over Wales to organisations and creative individuals which means that the impact of the cut will affect communities the length and breadth of the country.

“Wales is a nation that has always valued the arts. We will look at all of our costs and prioritise the available funds under this proposed budget for the broader sector and the Investment Review. While one accepts that these are extremely difficult fiscal times for the government, we also need to consider as a nation what we believe to be the right level of funding for the arts and the communities we serve throughout Wales.”


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Rhddwen y Sais
6 months ago

I think the arts should be funded but I have concerns that tax raised from the income of people who do not have the disposable income to enjoy the arts or entertainment of their choice is used to subsidise tickets for relatively well paid middle classes.

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