Suffolk to cut all its arts budget
East Anglian arts organisations have warned of the devastating damage that would be done if Suffolk County Council follows through with its pledge to cut 100% from its arts budget.
Douglas Rintoul, CEO of Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre, which currently gets £122,000 a year from the council, said: "These proposals come at a very difficult time for cultural organisations still recovering from the impact of the pandemic and grappling with the added strain of the cost-of-living crisis” he said, calling for an urgent reconsideration of the council’s decision.
"The reduction in investment of our engagement initiatives will not only be felt by us but will ultimately cost local government more in the long run. The cultural sector stands at the heart of Ipswich and Suffolk, shaping the region's identity. These proposed cuts could jeopardise the artistic and creative vibrancy of the area and threaten economic growth” he said. “The cultural and creative industries generate over £272m for the region and contribute immeasurably to the visitor economy, community wellbeing, sense of identity and enjoyment of life at its every stage.”
Suffolk County Council is slicing all of its £500,000 from the arts and museums from 2025 as it seeks to save £64.7m over two years.
A joint statement from the New Wolsey, the Primadonna Festival, First Light Festival, the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds and Suffolk Artlink said: "The proposed cut to these organisations will provide an extremely modest difference to the council’s overall finances, representing a saving of just 0.057% of the council’s 2023/24 revenue budget.
“However, the ‘cost’ to our county will be so much more significant. Collectively, our organisations support 24,493 children and young people and 76,516 vulnerable people through our community engagement work," they said.
The pain will be temporarily reduced by the council using £528,000 of Covid recovery funding which would be made available for the arts and heritage organisations, which will compensate for the first year of cuts.
Outlining its plans, the council said it would be stopping core funding to art and museum sector organisations but that £528,000 of Covid recovery money would be made available to the arts and museum sector organisations for 2024/25, which will fully cover the funding reduction for one year.
But the council’s deputy leader, Richard Rout, said that adults’ and children’s care needed to be put at the heart of its plans , even at the cost of Suffolk’s arts funding. “This is necessary because the demand on council services for those most in need in Suffolk is at an all-time high” he said. “The cost of providing many of those services is significant, but the funding that we need is not keeping up. Across the country, councils are having to make similar tough choices."
Nottingham City Council has also announced plans to cut all of its arts funding from 2025.