Culture, learning and the Comprehensive Spending Review

28 June 2013

Last week George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the government’s spending plans for 2015-16. You can download the full document here and read the Chancellor’s speech in full here.

In this post we give you the implications for cultural learning, but if you want to download the article as a briefing document, you can do so here.

Background and headlines

  • This is a one-year plan and it covers the period of the next general election in May 2015. The perceived wisdom is that much of this budget will stand regardless of the result of that election.
  • Osborne stated that the Review is built on three principles: Growth, Reform and Fairness
  • These cuts to departmental budgets should viewed in the wider context of cuts that have been made since 2010:
  1. National Museums will have been cut by almost a third,
  2. Arts Council will have been cut by more than 35%,
  3. Local Authorities will have been cut by over 43% in real terms.
  • Greatest risk?

The cumulative 43% cut to local government since 2010 poses the greatest risk to cultural learning. Libraries, cultural services and organisations, youth services and museums are not protected public services. So far, they have absorbed the brunt of cuts and it is likely they will continue to do so with far-reaching and crippling results.

It is imperative that all cultural learning colleagues take the following actions:

  • Champion local authorities that have made decisions to protect cultural learning. Where possible share their approaches with you own L.A.
  • Develop personal and good relationships with your MP; go and visit them (take young people, teachers, parents and participants) and tell them about the excellent work happening in their constituency
  • Cultural organisations: Develop even stronger relationships with local heads, teachers and young people. Treat them like high-level donors; give them tickets, invite them to dinner, appoint them to your board, talk about ways you could work more closely together.
  • Schools: Invite cultural professionals to join your Governors, allocate a lead teacher to develop relationships with cultural organisations, use your pupil premium to fund cultural learning work.
  • Greatest opportunity?

Working with Local Enterprise Partnerships and accessing the £2bn Single Local Growth Fund (details and definitions on page 7) may be the greatest opportunity this Spending Review offers cultural learning – particularly as some of the funding looks to be set aside for skills.

It is important that Cultural Learning colleagues engage with their local LEP, and wherever possible, work to ensure that culture and learning are embedded in the Local Growth Plan.

  • The day after the CSR announcement, Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, unveiled this document: Investing in Britain’s Future. It lays out funding and plans for infrastructure and capital development. More detail on the funding for LEPs is included. Much of the content in this document has been announced before, but has been re-presented in the context of the Spending Review. You can read Alexander’s speech here.

Detailed breakdown by department


The Department for Culture, Media and Sport Budget

The DCMS budget is to be cut by 7%, with the Arts, ‘grass roots’ Sport and National Museum budgets slightly ring-fenced within that, with a cut of only 5%. Funding for elite sport has been protected.

In the DCMS statement, Secretary of State, Maria Miller attributed this lesser cut to Arts and Museums to Treasury’s recognition of their importance to the economy. Peter Bazalgette, Chair of Arts Council England described the 5% cut as a ‘best case scenario’.

The Spending Review document also contains details of departmental capital budgets (table 2 on page 11 of the document) and this shows a dramatic reduction of 57.6% to the DCMS allocation. At this stage it is difficult to see what this means, as the attached note references broadband spend and a change to reporting on museum reserves as contributing factors to the overall cut. We’ll be asking for more information on a breakdown of this figure.

How will the cut be passed on?

DCMS and Arts Council will now have to decide how to pass these cuts on to the organisations they fund, and this information is expected in the next few weeks. However, last month Arts Council gave a number of briefings to their portfolio on likely outcomes of the spending review and modelled what a cut of 5% might mean. Arts organisation Stan’s Café wrote this blog on what was discussed.

Heritage and Tourism have not been protected - which indicates that these sectors may be due for a larger percentage of the 7% cut to DCMS.

What else was announced for culture?

Change to English Heritage

English Heritage is to be split into two separate bodies:

  • A charity named English Heritage to manage the National Heritage Collection (properties belonging to the public). This Charity will get an initial one off lump sum of £80 million, but will be expected to move to a self-financing structure and will cease to access public subsidy.
  • The National Heritage Protection Service, which will continue to act as the Government’s expert advisor and will retain its statutory powers. It will provide advice, research and awareness-raising on the protection of England's heritage, and, at the same time, it will become more public-facing and enhance its service to owners, developers and the public.

You can read the English Heritage statement on the split here and a BBC report on the situation here.

National Museums – new freedoms

National Museums feature heavily in the Spending Review document with the Chancellor announcing a number of ‘new freedoms’ for National Museums – chiefly that they will no longer be tied to government guidelines and restrictions on pay, procurement, staffing and financial management. Osborne claims that these changes will enable National Museums to ‘access finance to unlock new projects, commercial revenues and philanthropic donations’. The National Museum Directors’ Council has agreed and welcomed these changes.


The battle site at Waterloo (near Brussels) is to be restored in time for the 200th anniversary.


The Department for Education’s Administration and Programme budget has been cut in real terms by 1%, and its capital budget has been reduced by 1.7%.

It is also worth noting that by 2015 the DfE will have halved its own departmental admin and staffing budget since 2010.

Schools’ revenue funding

The headline for the Department of Education is that ‘the schools budget has been protected in real terms’. As the excellent Sam Freedman explains in his blog, this means a small per-pupil reduction in revenue funding to schools for children aged 5-16.

Funding for education services

A grant for ‘education services’ (which is used to fund a range of services including; non-curriculum music, visual and performing arts activities; therapy and health services; pupil support, and out of school activities) is paid either to Local Authorities or directly to Academies. This grant is to be reduced by £200 million.

Capital funding for refurbishment

The Chancellor has promised that the government will ‘rebuild 150 schools in very poor condition by 2017’ as part of the privately financed Priority School Building Programme'. It is unclear whether any new funding has been allocated to this already existing initiative.

Funding for new schools

The Spending Review includes provision for 180 new Free Schools (there are 81 in place now), 20 Studio Schools and 20 University Technical Colleges.

Funding for early years

The settlement maintains 15 hours a week of free early education for all three- and four-year olds. The entitlement will be extended to the 20 per cent most disadvantaged two-year olds in September 2013, and to around 40 per cent in 2014-15.’

Again, this provision was announced originally in 2011, and so is not a new initiative. However, the Guardian reported that maintaining this funding has been a hotly contended issue throughout the Review.

What else has been announced / what’s missing?

Youth Services

There is absolutely no mention in this Spending Review of any national funding for youth services or young people – reinforcing Michael Gove’s statements earlier this year that Youth Policy is not a central government priority. As has been the case up till now, youth services and informal provision could bear a disproportionate percentage of cuts, as they haven’t been protected in any way. Similarly there is no protection of teacher training budgets, so we could expect to see a reduction there too.

16-19 and early years

On page 34 of the document there is a paragraph that states: ‘The Government will continue to reform the 16-19 and early education sectors, including implementation of the funding reforms recommended by Doug Richard and Alison Wolf, while requiring these sectors to be more efficient’.

Consultation on new National Funding Formula for schools.

Plans are afoot to change the mechanism that allocates pupil funding per local authority / area. These plans will be published for consultation, and the process has been generally welcomed by the education community.


The Department for Communities and Local Government Programme and Administration budget has been cut by 10%, with its capital budget cut by 35.6%. However, in his speech the Chancellor maintained that other central government funding for housing and health mean that the direct cut to Local Authority operating budgets is more like 2%.

Despite this claim, the figures are still being widely interpreted as a huge cut to local government funding. Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the LGA said:

This cut will stretch essential services to breaking point in many areas. While positive steps have been taken to target NHS funding at social care, the fact remains that some councils will simply not have enough money to meet all their statutory responsibilities. Services such as culture and leisure facilities, school support, road maintenance and growth-related programmes will bear the brunt of these cuts.

As this statement indicates, culture stands alongside many other essential public services facing severe jeopardy – with LA funded museums, libraries, arts and cultural organisations, youth services, etc standing to loose both central and national funding through the implementation of this Review.

What else was announced?

Troubled Families

The Chancellor has promised to invest £200 million to extend the Troubled Families programme and change the way that local authorities, health, education and criminal justice services work with a further 400,000 vulnerable families. You can read more about the initiative here in the Local Government Chronicle.

LEPs and the Single Local Growth Fund

What is a LEP?

A Local Enterprise Partnership is a partnership between local authorities and businesses. Formed in late 2010, their role is to help determine local economic priorities and lead economic growth and job creation within its local area.

LEPs carry out some of the functions previously carried out by the Regional Development Agencies, which were abolished in March 2011.

They enable business and civic leaders to come together to drive sustainable local economic growth and create the conditions for private sector job growth in their communities. This is primarily done through the development of a ‘Local Growth Plan’.

There are now 39 LEPs covering the whole of England. The full list of these Partnerships and a map setting out coverage can be found via the LEP Network.

In October 2012 Lord Heseltine wrote a paper suggesting LEPs should be funded to and supported to lead local economic regeneration.

In this CSR the Chancellor has allocated £2bn per year to LEPs as part of a Single Local Growth Fund (which will cover skills, housing and transport). This is significantly less than the £49bn over four years that Lord Heseltine recommended, but is still a sizable fund in the current climate.


The Department of Business, Skills and Industry has had its Administration and Programme budget cut by 5.9% and its capital budget increased by around 9%. It seems likely that the bulk of the new capital spend will be on infrastructure for science and innovation

Indications of budget breakdown so far:

  • Maintained funding for apprenticeships
  • Cuts to FE of £260 million
  • A cut of £100 million to the National Scholarship Programme (which provides bursaries to disadvantaged students wishing to access HE). The NSP will also now be ‘refocused’ towards postgraduate students and away from undergraduates (some members of the academic community have welcomed this as they say that the previous scheme wasn’t working).
  • Frozen maintenance grants for poorer HE students (saving £60 million)
  • Flat cash to science (equating to a cut of around £276m)
  • £185 million to the Technology Strategy Board

What else was announced?

Apprenticeships and the government trainee programme

This settlement pledges to maintain spending on apprenticeships for those aged 19 or above (meaning that we may well see a real term cut when the figures on this are announced). The document also announces that the Government will consult on major reform of apprenticeship funding this summer to ensure that purchasing power is held in the hands of employers.

The document also pledges to extend the Government’s traineeships programme to 19-24 year olds, to help support young people to make the transition from education into work.