Survey reveals massive council cuts

Council spending on museums, libraries, arts, and culture has been slashed by nearly almost £400m since 2010.

An analysis of council spending by the County Councils Network (CCN) has found that residents in county areas have seen the heaviest reductions, with councils in shire counties and rural areas reducing their spending in these services by 30% or £169m since 2011, higher than anywhere else in England.

Metropolitan borough councils have reduced their culture spend by £104m, or 28% since 2011, London has scaled back by £75m in the same period, whilst non-county unitary authorities have reduced expenditure by £41m in the same period. District councils, who do not have responsibility for libraries, but share responsibility for museums and arts support with county councils, reduced their culture spend by £3.1m. 

The survey also found that county local authorities are spending on average 65% of their budgets on adult social care and children’s social service, and are having to switch funds from other ‘highly-valued’ discretionary service areas like arts, libraries, and culture so they can fulfil their care obligations to the elderly and vulnerable.

Library services make up the bulk of these reductions, with county authorities reducing the most – down by £124m since 2011. At the same time, library visits in rural areas have fallen by 34% since 2011. County local authorities also record the biggest percentage reduction in arts spending – down by 70% or £22m and reduced expenditure on museums and galleries by £19m.

And the situation is likely to get worse,says the CCN if spending cuts continue in this year’s Spending Review. County leaders face a ‘triple whammy’ of being the lowest funded upper-tier councils, withstanding the sharpest reductions in government grant funding over the last four years, and face the biggest growth in demand for care services. These funding pressures leave them ‘between a rock and a hard place’ and argue that if government provided enough funding for care services this year in the Spending Review, it would prevent more cutbacks in cultural spend.


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