Northern Ireland

Arts cash cut 'could cost 100 jobs' in Northern Ireland

Up to 100 jobs could be at risk in the arts sector because of cuts by the Department of Culture, Arts and Lesiure, the NI Arts Council has said.

The comments came after the department confirmed that it had to make savings of 17.2% between 2011 and 2015.

The Arts Council's Noreen McKinney said public spending on the arts was already very low and the impact of further cuts would have a hugely detrimental effect.

She said the cuts would affect the council for several years.

"There is no doubt that we will be unable to continue to sustain the number of arts organisations that we currently do and that will inevitably lead to job losses," she said.

"Regrettably, that will have a hugely disproportionate affect on the arts in Northern Ireland and it will take us decades possibly to recover from that."

Consequences

A senior civil servant at the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure said on Thursday that job losses were inevitable because of the cuts.

DCAL director of finance Deborah Brown said the consequences would be "widespread and unpalatable".

She said that museums and libraries would potentially have to close and the levels of service would also fall.

Overall, the department's current budget of £109m is projected to fall to less than £92m by 2014/15.

Speaking at a Stormont committee meeting on Thursday, Ms Brown said the figures represented a cumulative cut of £46m over the budget period.

She said the department would cut its operating budget by 14% while its supporter bodies like the Arts Council and Sport NI face cuts of 18%.

'Job losses inevitable'

She said grant giving bodies like Sport NI and the Arts Council would be "probably to able to accommodate budget reductions more quickly" whereas museums and libraries would need more time to make cuts as most of their cost are related to staff and buildings.

She said it was inevitable people will lose their jobs and that it was likely that at some stage redundancy programmes will be needed in some of the department's sponsored bodies.

The sponsored bodies include organisation like the Arts Council, Sport NI, the NI Library Authority and the National Museums NI, however Ms Brown did not specify which of these would require a redundancy programme.

DCAL added that no detail had been determined where staff reductions will occur.

About 30% of DCAL's budget is dedicated to libraries while 20% is spent on museums.

She said if museums and libraries avoided significant cuts, then the arts and sport would have to deliver more savings and that would have a "very significant impact" on those areas.

Another senior civil servant, Edgar Jardine, said that the minister Nelson McCausland had identified the Ulster Scots Academy as a priority project which should not be cut.

The Ulster Scots Academy project all but collapsed under previous DCAL ministers.

Other priorities include an IT project for libraries and the World Police and Fire games, due to be staged in Northern Ireland in 2013.

SDLP Finance spokesperson Declan O'Loan MLA said a four-year programme of savings being proposed for the department "amount to little more than a series of top-down, across-the-board cuts".

On Tuesday, the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action warned that public spending cuts cuts could amount to £2bn over the next four years.

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