CSR and all that – part 1

It’s difficult to pen a quick response to the CSR, which takes account of the wider impact it is likely to have on the cultural and creative economy. Not least because it will be 5-10 years before it takes effect.

But it’s worth looking at some of the initial headlines, because they will help give us an indication of the shape of things to come.

This is the first of a number of responses over coming days.

* The headline is, and will be, the cuts to the arts.

Some say it’s 30%, others say 15.

ACE has been asked to restrict funding cuts to “frontline organisations” to 15%;  and has been asked to slash its core running costs by a massive 50% (this for an organisation which has shed lots of staff over the last couple of years, and reduced its regional office base from 9 to 3).

The first fight will be to determine who or what is “frontline”.

Education activity is unlikely to fit that bill:  Creative Partnerships, as was, has already gone.  So expect any educational or community-focused work to be considered ‘back-office’.

Second-tier organisations, supporting infrastructure or promoting partnerships across other sectors (for example, A&B) can hardly be called “frontline”.  So, their sterling work in leveraging support from other sectors, or advocating on behalf of a fragile sector is likely to suffer dramatically.

And, just to be clear:  a “frontline” company getting a 15% cut will be considered to be a very good deal.  Imagine that even just two years ago.

There will be a lot of blood on the arts carpet.

* Local authority cuts

That’s the national arts carpet, by the way.  The vast majority of arts organisations rely on local authority funding – alongside their own self-generated income.

DCLG was hit hardest of all government departments, and local authorities will be expected to bear the brunt of much of the public sector savings over coming years.

So, many, many arts organisations can expect to have funding cut, with all other opportunities for funding from other budgets massively diminished.

And libraries, and museums?  All under threat too.

So: so far, so bad.  Big cuts to what some might describe as core activities.

But the indirect and wider sphere of culture and creativity has already been damaged by earlier announcements:

* The Design Council has lost its NDPB status, and is being encouraged to be more entrepreneurial.
Although its core budget will have been hit, I can see new money being generated in response to various project initiatives. That may well benefit the Council in the short term, as it demonstrates the capability of design on a wide range of cross-departmental issues.
But longer-term: the loss of NDPB status will inevitably lower the profile of design, and will diminish the ability of the Council to argue the case at top tables.  The CEO of a Design charity will have a much tougher time making his or her case to Ministers and senior civil servants than one who sits, by right, on a number of inter-departmental panels and committees.

* NESTA was already operating in a different way from other ‘NDPB’s and has the benefit of an endowment to keep it going.  It has also recently identified creative industries as one of its three core programme areas.  All good news.  But the chances of it retaining its BIS funding for additional activities must surely be questionable.  Watch this space!

* UK Film Council.  For good or ill, that has gone.  Where the funding goes is not clear – but the BFI has taken a 15% hit on its already meagre funds (and of course funding for the National Film Centre on the South Bank has already been stopped).

* CABE:  funding has gone completely.  Presumably, it too can compete in the Big Society for some project funding, but this is likely to be very damaging longer-term to the profile and clout of design and architecture across the UK.

I will be watching forthcoming statements, announcements and commentary, to elicit more information and insight.  But so far, it is difficult to detect anything other than a very heavy hammer-blow for a sector which appeared to be in the sympathetic hands of Hunt and Vaizey……

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