Arts Organisations to Campaign against SCC proposal to cut arts budget by 100%

Somerset County Council will be considering a proposal to cut the arts budget by 100% at their cabinet meeting on Monday 1st November at Somerset College and the public is being asked to support the county’s arts organisations as they campaign against the decision.

Arts organisations across Somerset accept that measures to make savings are needed but believe that the arts budget should take a 26% cut in line with overall cuts in local authority spending.

The current Somerset County Council arts budget stands at £159,000, which is only 0.0004 of SCC’s overall spend of £350,000,000. Arts organisations who provide frontline service across Somerset believe that the consequence of the 100% cut will have a far greater impact on the cultural offer within Somerset than any contribution this cut will make to overall savings.

Current arts spending in Somerset positively impacts on the cultural life of the county. It plays a vital role in enhancing education, health and community life. It supports villages to put on professional arts events and allows schools and children’s centres to provide greater levels of arts education. It also helps ensure the ongoing success of local theatres and arts centres and enables participation in dance, visual arts, media, theatre and music by tens of thousands of Somerset residents, from the under 5’s to the very elderly.

The County Council cabinet papers identify the risk of cutting arts funding as being that ‘some arts organisations may fail and cease trading’. Phil Shepherd, Facilitator for Somerset Film says “While this is all too true, the wider and more important risk seems to have been ignored – that is the loss to our audiences and participants. These include many families and individuals on low incomes, significant numbers of learning disabled adults and young people, users of the mental health services, the physically disabled and many younger and older people developing their creative skills and seeking to contribute to the creative economy.” 

As a frontline service the arts reach into isolated communities in a predominantly rural county. They involve hundreds of volunteers and represent a living example of the ‘Big Society’. They are also a key driver for inward investment from blue chip companies looking to re-locate in Somerset.  The arts are significant local employers especially of talented young people who might otherwise leave the county. Crucial to all, is the aim to make the arts accessible to all Somerset residents.

Rosalinde Haw from Porlock Village Hall said, “All the rural touring promoters in Somerset would be devastated if Somerset County Council cut the arts funding by 100%. Living in a very rural area means it is incredibly important to have access to top quality arts right on our doorsteps in our own halls. A 100% cut basically sends out the message that the arts don’t make a difference to Somerset, when actually they are vital to our communities and quality of life.”

Arts organisations across the county are galvanising support from Somerset residents to prove to the County Council that the loss of arts provision and additional funds coming into communities would far exceed the already modest contribution made my the County Council. A cut of 26% over 3 years will allow arts organisations a chance to develop further business strategies to meet the challenges of the new climate and would not mean such a potentially devastating impact on Somerset and its residents.

For further details about the meeting on Monday 1st November and to find out how you can help us stand against the 100% cuts, please contact the Spaeda office on 01458 254262 or email