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Partners urged to invest in ‘cultural pound’ as Birmingham arts organisations face £3.5m funding cut

Partners urged to invest in ‘cultural pound’ as Birmingham arts organisations face £3.5m funding cut

🕔08.Dec 2015

The first stage of a £3.5 million funding cut for Birmingham arts organisations has been approved by the city council cabinet.

The budget for arts groups, including institutions such as the CBSO, Symphony Hall, Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Town Hall, will be reduced by 1.827 million in 2016-17.

A further £1.673 million cut is planned for 2017-18.

Council leaders say the financial pressure Birmingham is being put under by the Government’s austerity approach to public spending leaves them with no choice but to reduce support for the arts.

The organisations, which have suffered an average 36 per cent cut in council funding over the past three years and can expect further reductions in future, have been told to look for alternative means of raising money and to work with each other to become self-sufficient.

The Birmingham Arts Partnership (BAP), the group of leading cultural organisations based in and around the city centre, is working with the council to develop ways to diversify income, share costs and maximise commercial revenue

Arts Council England (ACE) funded the Birmingham Arts Partnership in 2014 to undertake further work to support organisational resilience.

A city council spokesperson said plans were progressing under BAP’s ‘cultural pound’ project for “a shared entity, based on a membership model, which will enable the partners to develop proposals for joint funding bids to support future projects”.

The spokesperson added:

This concept has potential to attract new income, including funds from public, private and charitable sectors. The new vehicle, open to all not-for-profit cultural and heritage organisations and individual artists in the city and region, is likely to be launched early in 2016.

To maintain and grow Birmingham’s cultural provision will require a wider range of partners to contribute to resourcing culture in the city, drawing in those who benefit directly or indirectly from Birmingham’s cultural capital, to meet, and exceed, the gap resulting from the decline in public funding.

Cllr Penny Holbrook, cabinet member for skills, learning and culture, pointed out that the council will still spend a total of £4.85 million on supporting arts activities across Birmingham next year.

Cllr Holbrook said:

A city without culture is a city without a soul and a vibrant cultural scene is vital to encouraging visitors and investment as well as being good for the people of this city.

Local authorities including Birmingham are still faced with unprecedented cuts from central government, in Birmingham over £250 million in the next few years and every corner of the council and city are now affected.

Although the arts and cultural sector have faced significant cuts already we sadly have to continue to reduce the funding we provide even further.   However we are still investing almost £5 million in the cultural offer of the city despite a reduction in the funding we can realistically offer. While the cut will vary from group to group, depending on the bids submitted, their sustainability and how robust they can be, we have had to reduce the level of funding to all organisations.

I know this will make life difficult and it is not something done lightly but the scale of the challenge means we need to think very differently about how the arts are funded.

We can’t do this alone. We need to consider the ‘cultural pound’, the investment in the arts bring to the city and how we can diversify who and what funds the arts in the city – we need all partners to continue to support Birmingham as a centre of cultural excellence.


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