Arts and Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín is determined to “defend the arts from further Tory cuts”, her department has said, amid fresh concerns over budgets for local arts groups potentially being slashed.
A number of arts organisations in Derry have expressed fears for the future after being asked to come up with proposals on how they would slice 10% off their Arts Council grant aid for the current year.
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) has now moved to reassure the public that the letters were issued to 32 of its clients across the North as a precautionary measure.
Among the local organisations which have received notification are The Playhouse, the Waterside Theatre and the Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company.
All three organisations have expressed their concerns over any further cuts to budgets, warning that just over 18 months on from the City of Culture year, many areas of expenditure have already been cut to the bone.
Aspokesman for the Arts Council said that the letters were issued “in response to indications from government about the potential for in-year cuts to exchequer funding”, and that as a result the “Council contacted 32 annually funded clients recently”.
She said: “We asked them to consider how they might apply up to an indicative 10% cut and assess the impact this will have on their programmes, staffing, services and audiences.
“The prospect of in-year cuts for the second successive year are of deep concern to the Arts Council and it is with regret that the Board of ACNI has had to ask clients to again plan for cuts. However this is both a necessary and prudent planning exercise and the Arts Council is duty-bound to inform its clients of these matters in a timely manner.”
The spokesman added: “The Arts Council was informed on June 22nd that no organisation is to enter into new contracts, commitments or discretionary expenditure without departmental approval.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) said: “All service areas across DCAL and its arm’s-length bodies have been affected by budget reductions as a direct result of the year on year erosion of the Block Grant by the British Government.
“Despite the challenges, the Minister has no plans to reduce budgets to the organisations that she funds.
“The Minister’s focus is on defending the arts from further Tory cuts.”