Analysis has uncovered an almost £500m reduction in councils’ spending on libraries, culture, heritage and tourism since the onset of austerity.
While councils remain the largest funders of arts and culture in England, budgeting just over £1.1bn for the services in 2023-24, this figure is down from almost £1.6bn in 2010-11, the County Councils Network (CCN) found.
With the average upper-tier council spending two-thirds of its budget on social care, authorities have been ‘unable to avoid’ reducing support for cultural services, the network said.
CCN vice chair Sam Corcoran said: ‘With councils under perhaps the most significant financial pressure in recent memory, scarce funding will have to be prioritised to addressing overspends in care services but the recent announcement of extra money for councils could potentially stave off the most severe reductions.
‘Nonetheless, with the costs of care unlikely to abate, in the longer term we need to have a clear discussion with the next government on the extent to which councils can fund library and cultural services with the funding envelope they receive.’
The CCN also called for the Cultural Development Fund to be continued under the next government, but with no competitive bidding process and with funds distributed fairly across the country.