Northern Ireland

Cuts will mean job losses - DCAL civil servant

A senior civil servant at the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure has said that job losses are inevitable because of the cuts it has to make.

The department has confirmed it has to make savings of 17.2% over a four year period between 2011 and 2015.

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

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.

The Arts Council's Noreen McKinney said it was feared up to 100 jobs could be at risk in the local arts sector because of the cuts.

Ms McKinney said public spending on the arts in Northern Ireland was already very low compared to the rest of the UK and the impact of further cuts would have a hugely detrimental effect.

"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."

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 a IT project for libraries and the World Police and Fire games, due to be staged here 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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