Arts Council Statement on the Draft Budget 2008/11

Arts Council of Northern Ireland,
25 October 2007, Northern Ireland

The Arts Council has today called on the Northern Ireland Assembly to rethink its budget allocation for the arts. The Council was responding to today’s Draft Budget, which shows that, after three consecutive years of standstill funding, the arts stand to lose a further £1.3m over the next three year funding period – and this does not take into account the impact of inflation, which could reduce these funds by another £3m.
“This is incredibly bad news for the people of Northern Ireland. If the sector gets the allocation which has been announced today, then it is tantamount to sounding a death knell over large areas of arts activity here”, said the Chairman of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Rosemary Kelly. “This settlement will have devastating consequences for the arts sector and a negative impact on the economy as a whole.
The people of Northern Ireland should have the same cultural entitlement as their neighbours on these islands. Yet at the same time as arts in England have received a 12 per cent increase (announced earlier this month) this budget proposal pushes the sector here into continuing downward spiralling decay. While the per capita spend on arts in the Republic of Ireland is three times that in Northern Ireland, and Scotland and Wales also streak ahead, Northern Ireland seems unable to recognise what is already an accepted principle in other places across the world – that arts and cultural activity are vital components in social, economic and cultural regeneration”.
Rosemary Kelly continued, “The arts in Northern Ireland have reached a critical point in their history. Years of chronic underfunding have been made much worse in recent years by the decline in Lottery arts funds and the Government’s diversion of a further £4.5m from the sector to help fund the 2012 London Olympics. This settlement will do nothing to ease the pressure on our artists and arts organisations.”
The Arts Council has been forced to close important funding programmes because it no longer has the resources to continue financing them. Only this week the Local Authorities have had to be made aware that they are a low priority for continuing Arts Council funding and, with the closure of the Multi-Annual Programme under Lottery, the future of many of our key arts organisations is uncertain.