This was never going to be an easy funding settlement for the arts, or indeed, for the arts council. ACE was dealt a tricky hand by government with the pot of money it receives from the Exchequer reduced by 30%. No more than half this cut (15%) had to be passed on to its regular funded organisations, now to be referred to as national portfolio organisations.
Yes, it’s true Lottery funding to the arts will increase over time but that has had little bearing on ACE’s ability to offer core funding to cultural organisations. Today was a day when ACE was always going to have to make cuts. Although, as it acknowledges itself, some it would have made anyway.
Last time we were here - back in 2007/8 - ACE made an almighty hash of things. In rosier economic times, the Labour government had dealt them a strong hand funding-wise and they proceeded to do everything in their power to mess it up. Individual decisions were flawed (for example the decision to cut the Bush), the process was opaque and the announcement was allowed to morph into a PR disaster, culminating in an angry meeting at the Young Vic where ACE’s then chief executive Peter Hewitt was lucky to emerge physically unscathed.