Publishers and Arts Council England have reacted with "astonishment" and “delight” that the body’s funding is to be protected in the government’s Spending Review announced yesterday.
However, Richard Mollet, c.e.o of The Publishers Association, has said “the devil will be in the detail” on other announcements around the cuts to Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Apprenticeship Levy and Research UK.
Chancellor George Osborne revealed in his Spending Review and Autumn Statement yesterday (25th November) that while DCMS day-to-day funding would be cut by 20%, funding for Arts Council England (ACE), which supports literacy charities like Book Trust and The Reading Agency, would be protected, along with funding for museums and art galleries. Osborne described the arts sector as “one of the best investments we can make as a nation” and ACE will be given a small increase of £10m a year in cash for the four years up to 2020.
ACE said the settlement represented a "better than average result for arts and culture" compared to other government departments.
Sir Peter Bazalgette, chair of ACE, said: "This is an astonishing settlement for arts and culture. The very strong case made by the Arts Council and the sector, supported by DCMS ministers, for the huge benefit arts and culture deliver to our quality of life, our society and our creative economy has been recognised by the Chancellor.
"This settlement means we can keep up our efforts to ensure everyone, everywhere in England benefits from Arts Council money. "
Publishers who received grants from ACE have also welcomed the news.
Tom Chivers, director of independent poetry publisher and arts producing company, Penned in the Margins, said: “I'm delighted to hear the news of the increased funds and hope this is passed on to artists and audiences, as well as to national portfolio-funded organisations. Publishing will always be a mixed economy, at all levels, and Arts Council has a crucial role to play in maintaining a balanced culture that embraces the small and independent artists and companies operating at the edges and bringing vitality to how we see and respond to the world.”
Stefan Tobler, publisher of And Other Stories, said: “There is no way we could have published so much adventurous, literary writing from around the world (often in translation) without the support of Arts Council England... It's true to say that the literary culture in the UK would be in a more depressing state without the arts councils. So we're delighted that their work is recognised by an increase in funding at this Spending Review.”
The book trade had been braced for what yesterday’s announcements would bring after Osborne asked non-protected departments to model between 20%-40% worth of savings earlier in the year in preparation for the review.
Osborne also confirmed the national business rate would be abolished and that by 2020, all local councils would receive 100% of the revenue from business rates, as opposed to the 50% they are currently allowed to keep. However, at the same time, local councils will lose the Central Government Grant worth £18bn across councils in England, which could lead to a funding shortfall of £4.1bn, according to The Guardian.
The Apprenticeship Levy will be set at 0.5% of payroll and apply to firms employing over 150 employees. Meanwhile the doubling of small business rate relief has also been extended in England for 12 months to April 2017. Public Lending Right (PLR) has received a ‘flat-cash’ settlement and its funding will remain at £6.6m up to 2019.
Richard Mollet, chief executive of the Publishers Association, said that “with the highly pessimistic trailing” of this spending review it was “perhaps inevitable that the Chancellor would end up producing a less troubling picture than feared.”
“But as ever the devil will be in the detail which we can analyse in the coming days,” he said. “We look forward to meeting with ministers to discuss the Apprenticeship Levy; it's not just the 0.5% rate that is important but how the scheme might be designed.
“The DCMS settlement seems like good news for literacy programmes but again we need to look closely at the announcement to ensure that these programmes are being preserved.”
Meanwhile, Martyn Wade, chair of CILIP Board, said he was "profoundly disappointed" that public libraries and their value to communities and the economy were "entirely missing from the Chancellor’s statement."
"As statutory services which attract more than 280m visits a year and support a range of government agendas it’s shocking that public libraries have not been mentioned,” he said.
Alan Gibbons, author and library campaigner, said Osborne's Spending Review was "calculated to secure his succession as Tory leader", which is why he reversed his decision on cutting tax credits and made no cuts to policing.
"The essentials of austerity remain in place however and areas such as libraries will feel the full force of its cold blast," Gibbons said. "We can expect the hollowing out of the service to proceed apace in terms of closures, opening hours reductions, pressure on book stocks, job losses and the replacement of staff by volunteers."
The Labour leader of Newcastle city council, Nick Forbes, for example, has said the withdrawal of the central government grant would leave a £16m hole in his budget, which could have a knock-on effect for library provision.
Gibbons added: "We will continue to campaign for libraries as essential services promoting reading, social cohesion and learning."
In reaction to news that the government plans to abolish national business rates John Allan, national chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said the organisation welcomed the chancellor’s commitment to small firms by extending the temporary doubling of Small Business Rate Relief to April 2017. “Over 600,000 small and micro enterprises depend heavily on this relief,” he said. “Many are still struggling to adjust to challenges around the National Living Wage, changes to dividends on tax and pensions auto-enrolment. Its removal would have been an additional tax rise.”
He added that measures to devolve powers over business rates to local authorities provided "opportunities but also risks" for small businesses. "We urge the government to deliver on its commitment to fundamental reform of the wider business rates system,” he said.