Arts Development UK (AD:UK) has published its eleventh annual survey of local authority arts investment. The report shows that a growing number of local authorities have no direct arts service, while those that remain are vulnerable to cuts and are operating in reduced financial circumstances.

The online survey, conducted in association with Arts Council of Wales, was issued to all local authorities in England and Wales in spring/summer this year. It received 65 responses, which represents 27% of those authorities with an arts provision.

The survey once again highlights ongoing and major changes to budgets in arts spending. From a total of 353 authorities in England and 22 in Wales, as of August 2014, 136 (36.2%) have no dedicated arts officer and no arts service. As for the other 63.8%, many report services that are operating with reduced levels of financial support.

Projected arts budgets across England and Wales look set to be cut by 4.3% in 2014/15, which once inflation is taken into account, equates to 6.7% in real terms. It is estimated that arts spending per head of population will be £2.41 per person in 2014/15.

The report also highlights a continuing trend in contracting out art services to third party organisations, with this year’s figure at 18%, an 11% rise on the previous survey. This may partly explain why a high number of respondents say they are expecting redundancies in the near future: 22% in 2014/15, increasing to 29% in 2015/16.

Outsourced and repurposed

Speaking about the survey findings, AD:UK chair Jane Wilson said: “The continuing pattern of change, as more and more authorities outsource services and repurpose remaining staff into more general roles, highlights the increasing need to consider how these new patterns of operation will effect capacity to understand and plan for local cultural needs over the long term.”

One positive note is that partnership working with the commercial and educational sectors, and especially with regeneration agencies, is increasing. 90% of authorities say they are demonstrating partnership working and a desire to be more outward facing, which may suggest that confidence in the UK economy is on the upturn.

Tony Witton, who chairs of AD:UK’s Research and Advocacy Working Party, said: “This year’s survey is showing a marked increase in collaborative working which is drawing money in from other sectors such as health, education and regeneration. There is a danger that this is masking the true situation and we should be preparing ourselves for a seismic shift in next year’s figures.

“On the other hand, we may be looking at a new trend which will see levels of investment in the arts maintained or perhaps begin to grow as local authorities support the sector to broaden its funding base and become more business-like.”

Fewer opportunities for artists

a-n’s own recently published report, Artists’ work in 2013, which uses data drawn from to track current trends in artists’ employment, shows that work offered by local authorities to artists has fallen dramatically in the year 2012-13.

While the value of all work from local authorities had been steady since 2010, at around 10%, the figure fell to 3% in 2013. This is of concern because local authority arts managers are generally keen to both contribute to artists’ professional development, through offering arts projects, and to uphold good payment practices.

Read the full AD:UK / Arts Council of Wales Local Authority Arts Investment & Partnership Survey 2014/15 report

Read Artists’ work in 2013