Arts and leisure at risk from spending cuts to council budgets

  • By Jim Ranger

The future of theatres, parks and festivals run by London boroughs could be adversely affected by savings due to be announced in the government’s Spending Review on Wednesday (25 November). 

London Councils, which represents the 32 boroughs and the City of London, is concerned that funding reductions expected in the spending review will affect non statutory services such as leisure and arts as a greater proportion of councils’ reducing budgets are prioritised for statutory services. 

Real terms expenditure on culture and related services in London has fallen by almost a third since 2010/11, from almost £600 million to under £400 million in 2015-16. The combined effect of funding reductions and growth in demand for statutory services mean that spending on culture and leisure could fall by a further £250 million by 2020 to £150 million across London. 

Cllr Guy Nicholson, London Councils’ representative on the Mayor of London’s Cultural Strategy Group, said: “There is a real concern across the capital that the role played by London boroughs in promoting and supporting culture, arts and leisure services is now at extreme risk from the expected spending review cuts to local government funding. 

“The role of culture and the arts in our local areas should not be underestimated; they are the vital catalyst for creating thriving, cohesive and prosperous communities. 

“Councils in London have been working hard to maintain levels of support for culture, arts and leisure services in the face of the cuts already imposed. Developing stronger collaborations with the Arts Council, partnerships and joint ventures with the sector itself, providing in-kind support and work space alongside applying planning powers to secure future investment from new developments. 

“All of this is now in jeopardy and the boroughs are deeply concerned about the impact this loss would have on local communities and the economy.” 

Core funding to London boroughs from central government has fallen by 44 per cent in real terms from 2010/11 to 2015/16. If the principal statutory responsibilities of local government – adult and children’s social care, public health and waste management – are protected, spending on other services would need to be reduced by almost 60 per cent by 2019/20. 

According to 60 per cent of Londoners, arts and culture is the best thing about living in the capital. GVA* of the creative industries in London was estimated at £34.6 billion, accounting for just under half (47.6 per cent) of the UK total (72.7 billion), and contributed 10.7 per cent of total GVA in London**. 


Notes to editors

* Gross value added
** GLA report: The Creative Industries in London October 2015