Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland arts sector warned to brace for further cuts of up to 10%

By Lesley Houston

Major arts venues and organisations in Northern Ireland are to be decimated after further cuts to their already under-pressure budgets were announced.

The Arts Council has told more than 30 of the province's leading arts organisations to plan for in-year cuts of up to 10% to their budgets.

Popular venues such as the Lyric Theatre, the Mac, the Playhouse Theatre in Londonderry, the Grand Opera House, NI Opera and the Ulster Orchestra are among the latest victims of the cutbacks.

The Arts Council, whose own budget was trimmed by 11% in March, has been asked by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) to brace itself for further budgetary reductions.

The bad news prompted the body to ask its biggest clients to come up with yet more cost-efficiency savings.

Chief executive of the Arts Council Roisin McDonagh has branded the latest blow as "deeply concerning".

However, she added that the warning, issued in a letter to its 32 organisations, to plan for cuts of eight to 10% was "both a necessary and prudent request".

"Accordingly, we would ask you and your board to consider how you might apply up to an indicative 10% cut in your current year's grant from the Arts Council and assess the impact this will have on your programmes, staffing, services, audiences/participants etc," she said.

The arts facilities have been given until Thursday, August 20 to furnish the council with the financial information required.

The arts chief added, though, that her body was awaiting "clarity" from DCAL on any cuts.

All of the affected organisations receive significant core funding from the Arts Council's revenue funding stream, which is money the council receives directly from DCAL.

For example, the Mac was awarded £950,000 in 2015/16, NI Opera got £561,569 and the Crescent Arts Centre £226,800.

Each grant allows the venues and organisation to pay staffing and building costs, and put on shows, exhibitions, events and concerts.

The latest news means, however, that as the money is applied in phases, the full grant originally allocated may now not be received.

It is understood that if the planned cuts go ahead, some will have to shed jobs and cancel shows and performances.

A spokesman for the Arts Council said that it was being asked to plan for cuts so had no option but to ask arts organisations to do the same.

The spokesman added that the prospect of cuts for the second successive year was very regrettable.

He said: "The Arts Council was informed on June 22 that no organisation is to enter into new contracts, commitments or discretionary expenditure without departmental approval. This affects our grant-making abilities and the timing of this letter is pertinent to planning the release of the next instalment of exchequer funding."

Cuts were revealed in March when six bodies learned they'd receive no grants next year.

Belfast Telegraph


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