Birmingham Conservatives attack council cuts in arts funding

Claims that spending cuts will be “much worse” than original figures.

With Birmingham City Council currently planning to reduce their arts grants by 33%, it has been claimed that the actual impact on the individual arts organisations will be significantly higher. The news has emerged as the city council has written to organisations confirming that £1 million per year currently paid to the hedge fund owner of the NEC Group will be protected, meaning that the ‘saving’ will come entirely from the remaining figure of around £2 million that actually goes to the arts organisations themselves.

Cllr Ewan Mackey (Con, Sutton Roughley), shadow cabinet member for Arts and Culture said: “Coming on top of show stopping cuts in both 15/16 and 16/17, the headline 33% cut was bad enough but it is now clear that the actual impact will be more like 50% and even this will not be evenly spread with organisations being asked to model reductions in funding of up to 100%.

“Arts organisations have done a fantastic job of becoming increasingly self-sufficient over the last few years but the sad truth is, it will not be the commercial activities of these organisations that will suffer but their ability to continue to deliver the vital outreach work they do in communities such as Live in the Lodge at Falcon Lodge.”

The cuts form part of an overall package of £18 million of new savings the council are planning to deliver next year but with recent damning external reports exposing the Council’s inability to deliver value for money for local residents, Cllr Mackey has questioned the local choices made by the Labour administration and how these cuts could have been prevented. He continued: “This is clearly a challenging time for local authority budgets and Birmingham Conservatives have been at the forefront of calling for more sustainable funding solutions for local councils.

“However there is no doubt that Labour have made the challenge significantly more difficult in Birmingham through their own decisions and mismanagement. Having tried to implement changes to the bin service in order to save money, they faced a 221 day strike which cost over £10 million and resulted in an agreement that we now know will cost an additional £2.5 million a year going forward.

“Their lack of any financial controls or governance over the flagship Paradise Development in the City Centre has resulted in them requiring a £50 million taxpayer bailout to complete the project. Their decision to sell the NEC in 2015, which resulted in the Lloyds Group making a £500 million profit on the deal, has reduced council income by £41 million a year and bound the arts budget into the £1 million a year payment to the owners that has now been ring-fenced.

“These are just some of the recent and high profile examples of their mismanagement but it is very easy to see from this that you very quickly get to a position where under different leadership the arts budget as well as many other council services facing cuts could have been protected. Cllr Ian Ward has been the man in charge of the City’s finances throughout all these calamities but still refuses to accept responsibility. Arts organisations in Birmingham deserve better and the residents of Birmingham deserve better.”