William Eichler 28 January 2019

Council spending on cultural services slashed by £400m

Council spending on cultural resources such as museums, libraries, and the arts has been reduced by almost £400m over the last eight years of austerity, new research has revealed.

An analysis of council spending by the County Councils Network (CCN) has found that metropolitan borough councils have reduced their culture spend by £104m - or 28% - since 2011, with London scaling back by £75m in the same period.

CCN’s research also discovered that non-county unitary authorities have reduced expenditure on culture by £41m over the last eight years. District councils have reduced their culture spend by £3.1m.

However, CCN found that residents in county areas have seen the heaviest reductions in spending on museums, galleries, libraries, and the local arts.

Local authorities in shire counties and rural areas have reduced their spending in these services by 30% (£187m) since 2011, higher than anywhere else in England.

‘Councils play a major role supporting local cultural and arts organisations, and provide excellent libraries and museums,’ said Cllr Philip Atkins, Conservative vice-chairman of the CCN.

‘That support has not dried up completely – we spent £1bn on these services last year, whilst austerity has provided the impetus for many areas to innovate in delivering more with less.’

However, Cllr Atkins continued, the ‘unprecedented demand’ for care services has meant councils have been forced to shift funding from cultural to care services

Upper-tier county local authorities are now spending on average 65% of their budgets on adult social care and children’s social service alone.

‘With the unprecedented demand for care services continuing, we have regrettably had to shift funding from other areas to fulfil our statutory duties and more importantly protect the elderly and vulnerable,’ said Cllr Atkins, who is also the leader of Staffordshire County Council.

‘This trend is happening across all local councils, but is felt more in shire areas, where the average county spends two-thirds of its budget on care services.’

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