George…don’t do that…

So George Osborne has finished his big speech. Condensed version: the welfare state is going up in flames, and there will be a great deal of sifting through the spin and the small print before we will know how things are really going to pan out.

It seems a little iniquitous to bang on about the arts when the most disadvantaged people in society are about to have hell to pay for their own misfortunes and nearly half a million others in the public sector are likely to be put out of work. But I’m an arts journalist and it’s my job, so below is the statement so far from the ACE.

The ACE is to experience a 29.6% cut in its budget yet Jeremy Hunt wants it somehow only to cut 15% of funding it provides to arts organisations across the next four years. They are to thrash out more small print on Monday and of course the future health of the country’s arts depends on how they choose to apply the cuts – equal pain everywhere or axing a third of their RFOs altogether. Report in The Stage here.

[UPDATE: responses unfolding from specific places and organisations in The Guardian’s open thread from Mark Brown; watch this space. ]

Yet this is only part of the picture, since local authorities’ money is hard hit and the arts at a local level are likely to suffer hugely. Local authority budgets are being reduced by 28% and certainly culture will take a hard hit there. We have the feeling that the dust has much further to rise before it can begin to settle.

Here is the ACE’s statement:


Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England said:

“This cut will inevitably have a significant impact on the cultural life of the country.

“The Secretary of State has asked us to try to ensure that funding for arts organisations is not cut by more than 15% over the next four years – the tipping point that we identified to the Chancellor some months ago.

“Council had already indicated they will seek to minimise the effect of any cuts to the portfolio of arts organisations we regularly fund and will consider the overall position when it meets on 25 October. We will now be analysing the details of the settlement and the consequences for the arts in this country as a whole.

“We will announce how we will be implementing the cuts shortly after, and will then get on with the job in hand. It will be a tough task but we are determined to manage the cuts in the best possible way for the benefit of the whole arts and cultural sector.”

While we wait, here is Joyce Grenfell in one of her fabulous monologues, which contains many words of wisdom about misrepresentation (“A picture of Mummy? Oh, I thought it was an orange…”), the true extent of “freedom” and just how easy it is for everything to go horribly wrong … “George…don’t do that…”

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