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ACE CEO tells RFO's to prepare for a 10% cut next year

The letter sent to RFO's today at 17.30



Dear colleagues,

It’s clear that we’re living in difficult times and that there are real challenges ahead. Throughout this month the Arts Council is holding briefing sessions to discuss the developing context and timeline that will take us through the spending review to funding decisions for 2011 and beyond.

We want to be open with you as to what we know about the tough choices we need to face together. We also want to be clear that in this rapidly changing environment there are still things we don’t know. These sessions will be invaluable in both sharing our direction of travel, and in hearing feedback from you that further shapes our thinking.

In June, along with all DCMS funded bodies, we received a letter from Jeremy Hunt asking us to model reductions of 25- 30% over four years to our funding programme. This shows just how tough this spending review will be, but these figures are not set in stone. The Arts Council is arguing to minimise the cuts – and we will argue that any cut needs to be managed intelligently, and in a way that protects the achievements of the last 15 years. In particular we need to be sure that whatever cuts we do get do not all take place in the first year of a four-year cycle. This would be doubly damaging.

Many of you have talked to us about your enthusiasm for speaking with one voice, using the same key messages and themes to make sure we are heard. To help you with this we have prepared a toolkit, that we will be publishing shortly, to enable you to make the case.

There is much detail still to be decided, but we need to be clear that cuts of up to 30% would mean significant change. We would no longer be able to fund many organisations in the way we have been to date.

We want to give organisations at least 12 months’ notice of significant changes to their funding future so we will run the next funding process in two stages: investment decisions for 2011/12 (year one) will be separated from years 12/13-14/15.

Given the economic climate, and the fact we have been asked to model a reduction of up to 30% over four years, we are now asking you to model prudently for a minimum of a 10% reduction in your funding for 11/12. This figure is not final, but we suggest it is a reasonable figure for you to address at this point.

This allows us all to use 2011/12 as a year of transition that builds towards a new approach to the arts landscape, shaped by our ambitions for the arts. The Arts Council is developing Achieving great art for everyone, a 10-year strategic framework for the arts, setting out clearly what we want to achieve over the next 10 years. At the briefing sessions we will report back on responses to the consultation. It’s important that in this time of short-term cuts we keep our eye on the big picture, so that whatever cuts we do have to make now, art can still thrive over the next 10 years.

Following publication of Achieving great art for everyone, the framework will be translated into the next Arts Council plan and priorities. Our funding decisions for 2012/13 to 2014/15, post October settlement, will be firmly set within these priorities, the funding context, and aligned to the long-term goals.

At the briefing sessions we will also discuss the three new funding programmes that we are considering phasing in over time. These programmes will emphasise the nature of our relationship with funded organisations in order to focus our investment on what we want to achieve and allow us to respond quickly to new ideas and ways of working.

I hope as many of you as possible will be able to come along to a session to hear more about what I’ve set out here, and to take the opportunity to discuss your questions with us and other funded bodies. We will put the presentation from the session on our website later this month.

Best wishes,

Alan Davey
Chief Executive
Arts Council England

Views: 55

Tags: ACE, Alan, Davey, RFO, cuts

Comment by Nick Sherrard on July 13, 2010 at 0:10
I don't think there are many surprises in the real content of this - although that is not to downplay the impact of a 10% cut. Its enough to mean some great organisations will no longer be viable pure and simple.

Its wonderfully Arts Council behaviour to use this letter to let us know they are spending public money on a toolkit to help us ask for other bits of public money - when the whole letter demonstrates that if we want advice on defending budgets in the downturn the last people we should ask are ACE. As for the 10 year plan I am sure that will be very useful for someone...

There is one issue I wonder if anyone knows the answer to. For RFOs which had Sustain funding, and so have had to develop new business plans, I presume ACE have some obligation (implicitly at least, as they can hardly undermine their own investments) to broadly maintain support for them for the next three years. As a result this means those RFOs which did not win Sustain funding are more exposed given the overall pot of money available is reducing.

But what happens if some of the Sustain funded groups fail to reach their goals next year? Are they then a lost cause as far as ACE are concerned? Or might they get bailed out again? There should be a policy on this but I don't know what it is. Does anyone here?
Comment by Pete Massey on July 14, 2010 at 0:19
"Its wonderfully Arts Council behaviour to use this letter to let us know they are spending public money on a toolkit to help us ask for other bits of public money - when the whole letter demonstrates that if we want advice on defending budgets in the downturn the last people we should ask are ACE"

Nick, I wonder if you might explain what you mean by "wonderfully arts council behaviour" and why an advocacy tool-kit, designed to get a coherent message across to a range of policy makers about why it is important to continue investing in the arts, is in some way a bad thing? Have I misunderstood the thrust of your comment?
Comment by Marcus Romer on July 14, 2010 at 7:36
Jack - It is Matthew Taylor the CEO of the RSA

Nick - the link to the toolkit is here and it is a very useful lobbying tool

Pete - thanks for your comment and again I endorse the fact that the toolkit is useful and again it can mean that we are all working from the same script text - which as a theatre director I know how important that is!
Comment by Jack J Hutchinson on July 14, 2010 at 9:39
Thanks for that Marcus! I have published a report on Alan Davey's statement here http://www.a-n.co.uk/air/article/650528/469392

In it I refer to comments made by Davey at a panel discussion I attended last night at the RSA. There were positive signs from him that he wants to engage with the arts communities more, and RSA Chief Executive Matthew Taylor was keen to address this as well. There were also a couple of interesting comments from Thompson regarding the use of social networks to develop new models of funding and connecting people. I wonder if he has been perusing this site as of late...
Comment by Nick Sherrard on July 14, 2010 at 19:34
Hi Pete, been a bit slow but not been on the site today till now. I perhaps expressed it a bit strongly but am just frustrated with the lack of movement on the sector-wide lobbying. The case as it is being put is clearly not working which is a sad fact but a true one. The proof will be what happens over the next 6/ 8 months so I really hope I'm wrong and ACE fares better, but I suspect what has been ineffective so far will continue to be. There are some great ideas groups and orgs are coming up with just to engage the people that matter for them - some of that has turned up on other parts of this ning group actually which is really positive. And some of this toolkit will help that too.

At the minute though any public body engaging in lobbying in the first place is going to get a rough ride from the treasury, as they seem to be taking it as an indicator that admin costs must be too high - not sophisticated but neither has much else been of late. So when I saw the way that and the 10 year plan were presented my heart sunk to be honest. I was talking to a regen body today doing very peculiar things to represent the way their costs operate, and to downplay the lobbying function so there are lots of areas of life going through similar motions. I hope ACE works out why it has been quite so singled out and how to counteract it fast enough to get some results. Until then the rest of us need plans for what happens if it doesn't. Which is what I need to go and talk to people about now so I will leave it there...
Comment by Susan Jones on July 15, 2010 at 10:10
Having just returned from a week's break to read yesterday's news I too am glad to see some concerted action within the sector on campaigns but I feel that what Nick is getting at is that there's been a long lag in the communications between ACE and the sector and we are in danger of being caught on the wrong foot. We were one of the organisations who saw the signals of the recesssion very early on and who prepared for changing income patterns accordingly, but somehow we didn't seem to be finding opportunities to discuss this meaningfully with ACE or within our sector - even at the point when ACE embarked on RFO surveys of the recession's impact. The kinds of new models of organisation that will be the norm for the arts in the next decade are extraordinarily different (in my view) from those we currently see in the subsdised arts. These new models focus around networks of knowledge, R&D and innovation - I'm particularly interested in the way Wikileaks is enabled as an example of modern social change - tiny 'core' supported by a freelnace network and surrounded by sponsors/contributors who believe in the cause and bring their knowledge and own networks into the overall infrastructure.

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