Budget 2008 and the Arts

cowen.jpgWell, the figures are out, and it’s a mixed bag for the arts. The Film Board appears to be the clear winner, with an increase of 18% in its funding. However an initial Irish Times article trumpeting a €245 million ‘boost’ for the arts overlooked the fact that the Arts Council’s meagre increase– €5 million, instead of the €20 million they were seeking– actually represents a decline in the Arts Council’s grant in real terms (this is discounting the extra €3 million earmarked by the government for touring programmes). The multi-annual funding sought has failed to materialise, and it looks likely the ability of the AC to realise its Partnership for the Arts plan will be significantly impacted in light of these budget figures. Reactions are still emerging, but perhaps worse was expected for the days of collective belt-tightening we’re told are ahead…

Brennan congratulated for 5.25% rise to €245m
Deirdre Falvey, Arts Editor
The Irish Times, Thursday, December 6, 2007

ARTS: The budget for the arts in Ireland has been increased by 5.25 per cent to €245 million for 2008. This figure includes departmental money for the arts – €208.4 million, up 1 per cent from €206 million last year – as well as some OPW funding and the National Gallery, funded separately for historical reasons, which increases 7 per cent to €12.6 million.

The Arts Council’s budget is set at €82 million, an increase of 3 per cent on last year, but the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism Séamus Brennan announced a supplementary estimate allocating an extra €3 million, specifically for touring.

That means the Arts Council will have €85.1 million, the Minister said, an increase of 6.4 per cent. The Arts Council had sought an increase of €20 million to fund the Partnership for the Arts.

The Budget also included investment of €40 million for arts and culture infrastructure under the Access II programme – this is money which has already been allocated. There were increases for cultural institutions including the National Library and Museum, Imma, the Crawford Gallery, Chester Beatty Library and National Concert Hall, ranging from 6 to 11 per cent.

Culture Ireland, the agency that promotes Irish art abroad, increased its funding by 6 per cent to €4.75 million. The Film Board got an increase of 18 per cent to €23.2 million, mostly on the capital side. There is a commitment to retaining Section 481 tax relief for film until at least 2012.

The Minister said the rise was in line with what most departments got and he was “glad to be able to protect the arts side in particular”. Arts Council chairwoman Olive Braiden said she was “pleased with the outcome, especially in the circumstances of current public finances. I congratulate Mr Brennan in maintaining the Government’s existing significant commitment to the arts.

“The Arts Council looks forward to working with the Minister in the year ahead to build on this year’s provision.” She added that the council would be “continuing its work to achieve an allocation of over €100 million for the arts annually”.

Tania Banotti of Theatre Forum, representing theatre and the performing arts, said: “This Budget was tricky, so well done to the Minister for getting us there with a short lead-in time. The ‘begging bowl’ for the arts at the Government table is gone.”

But she added that there would be disappointment. “An increase of 3 per cent for the Arts Council is very small. Inflation is running at 5 per cent, so this is a cut in real terms. There are challenging times ahead for the arts sector.”