Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Arts Council funding cut by £500,000

Arts Council
Image caption The council's funding comes from the Department for Communities

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) has had its budget for 2016-17 reduced by almost £500,000.

The council's funding comes from the Department for Communities (DfC) and the bulk of the money is used to pay annual running and staffing costs for arts organisations.

The ACNI's funding from the executive has been reduced from £10.95m in 2015/16 to £10.49m in 2016/17.

The figure was confirmed by the DfC in response to a query from the BBC.

The department also confirmed that a £200,000 scheme to pay for musical instruments for bands is "additional money".

The programme provides grants of between £500 and £5,000 to marching bands to buy new instruments and replace worn-out ones, and is distributed through ACNI.

It was revived by communities minister Paul Givan on 11 July, having been suspended by former culture minister Carál Ní Chuilín in 2015.

Arts funding and policy is now the responsibility of DfC, which has taken over many of the functions of the former Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL).

'Massive proportion'

Will Chamberlain from Belfast Circus School, which is funded by ACNI, said the cut was short-sighted.

"Investment in arts and culture pays back many, many times over," he said.

"Whether it's in tourism benefit or education or health, that investment will come back to the Northern Ireland economy.

"Cutting by half a million is a miniscule amount in terms of the overall budget.

"But it makes a difference to us because it is a massive proportion of what we actually get allocated."

In March, the Arts Council warned that it expected its budget for 2016-17 to be reduced by up to 6%.

As a result, it was not able to provide any additional grant money this year for the majority of the 107 organisations it funds.

'Financial limits'

The cut to ACNI's budget has now been confirmed at over 4%.

However, that follows an 11% - or £1.38m - cut from DCAL in 2015-16.

A DfC spokesperson said Stormont's current budget allocations "create challenges for all departments and their public bodies".

"All the public bodies funded by the Department for Communities, including the Arts Council, will operate within the financial limits set by the executive and assembly this year and will do so as effectively and efficiently as possible.

"Looking ahead, the department will be examining options to reduce the administrative and back office costs incurred by its public bodies to ensure that the maximum portion of funding available in the future will be directed to front line services and activities on the ground."

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