What Do The BANES Cuts Actually Mean?

UPDATE: 30/01/2015: B&NES Arts Officers asked us to make some amendments to this article. Highlighted in yellow below.

We would like to take the opportunity to apologise to Creativity Works for any misunderstandings that arose. They are contributing time in kind to the Council’s new commissions group and not money as previously stated. We apologise for this error.

We met today (Friday 27 January) with the Arts Officers from B&NES Council to discuss the proposed budget cuts to the arts.

What we have found out is below, but as you can appreciate with any Council matter it is not as straight forward as simple yes and no answers. Therefore we have included as much information as possible to help everyone get a better understanding of what exactly is going on and how the arts fit within other departments.

Links to external documents can be found highlighted in red for reference. Please treat this as a rough guide; it may change as we get more information presented to us. We will highlight any changes made in a different colour so that you can see exactly what has changed and why.

Full documentation about the proposed council budget can now be found on their website along with the agenda for the meeting on February 1st.


We have done our absolute best to get as many answers as we possibly can. We hope the information below is as accurate and useful as it can be.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch with us: .uk

Theatre Bath’s Opinion and Overview 

It must be stressed that this is our opinion and overview to try and condense the info down and explain what we think it means and what we feel will happen.

1. All small project grants (up to £5000) are cut. 

2. Arts commissioning will continue thanks to a new partnership B&NES has set up

The project grants were, in our opinion the most important part of the arts departments funding. They enabled any organisation with a project to apply and make that project happen. We have been successful ourselves in the past and this has enabled us to run the conferences and workshops and also helped us gain a grant from the Arts Council using the project fund as match funding. It means a lot of small to midscale arts projects will no longer have a fund they can apply to and it will Make it increasingly difficult to get Arts Council match funding. Other previous projects/applicants include Art at the Heart at the Royal United Hospital, (they aren’t grant funded they have a contract) Mentoring Plus, Mencap, no – they were offered a grant but didn’t do the project, Bath Fringe Festival, Fringe Arts Bath they aren’t grant-funded (they have a contract) and the Rondo Theatre. It means that if you have a project you want to run no funding is available to you from B&NES. This will have a detrimental effect to companies and arts practitioners based in Bath. In effect it is killing off any hope of a supportive arts infrastructure for emerging or small to mid-scale artists. 

The commissions will be projects that the Council decide are needed. They will be put out to tender so that anyone in the UK can apply for them. There is no guarantee that Bath-based organisations will get funded. It’s an open playing field based on the best applications. The requirements to become an organisation that applies for tenders is quite complex as is the application process. A lot of smaller organisations simply will not have the resources to apply. These commissions will mainly be aimed at the areas surrounding Bath designated as BANES hard to reach communities. In effect killing off all funding to anyone wishing to do anything centrally. It will be beneficial to people living and potentially working in the outlying areas however – so that’s one positive.

We are 100% opposed to these cuts and do not believe they are in the best interests of the arts in Bath.

B&NES Council funded arts projects in two ways.

  1. Via a small grants scheme (up to £5000 per application)
  2. Via commissioning of projects which were put out to tender

18 months ago the current Council administration made the decision to cut arts grants (the awards of up to £5000 a year – project funding essentially).

100% of those arts grants have been cut.  To our knowledge this was never publicly announced or if it was it was buried somewhere as we certainly were not aware of it until the Chronicle article on January 7th.

On page 2 of the proposed cuts document on the B&NES website (Available here: PROPOSED CUTS DOCUMENT)

You will see at the bottom the budget relating to Arts Cuts. They have budgeted for cuts of £57k a year for the first two years and £319k for year three. This is based on the fact that Arts Development invested £40k a year in the small grants scheme and they have an extra £17k which they have to cut from elsewhere. This budget equates to a cut to the entire service by 2020.

Years 1 & 2, although still only at the proposal stage at this point until the meeting on 14th Feb when it is going to be approved are “definite” proposed cuts. Year 3 is subject to change as there will be a local election and the administration could change and decide not to carry out these cuts. It should also be noted that the way these figures are distributed over the 3 years could also change depending on what is discussed at the two forthcoming meetings. So there could be a larger percentage cut in years one and two, for example, and then less in year three. The total amount this budget is being cut by is £433k.


Commissioning of Arts Projects:

The Council have assured us that commissioned work will still happen.

The commissions will be based upon the Council’s Corporate Strategy  http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/your-council-and-democracy/corporate-plan and Arts Development Business plan (link here: Arts Development Business Plan which focuses more on the outlying areas in B&NES that do not have as much arts provision. The business plan was based on research carried out for the Creative and Cultural Strategy (link here: Cultural & Creative Strategy)

The Council create projects that they wish to happen in Bath and the surrounding areas and then list these projects on the Supplying the South West Portal (link here: Supplying the South West Portal ).

Signing up to apply for these commissions is fairly straight forward but for smaller companies and organisations the application process is quite difficult to get your head around. There is also no guarantee that work put out to tender will be given to Bath-based organisations. The tendering process is completely open and anyone in the UK can apply for commissions listed on the site. The Council choose who wins the commissions based on who they think is best suited to do the job and deliver the end product. All applications are examined and graded by the Arts Development team and independent adjudicators to ensure fairness and transparency.

The Council have formed a new commissions partnership which has come together with the sole intention of trying to boost money available for commissions. The group consists of B&NES Council, Curo Housing, City of Bath College, Creativity Works, & Bath Spa University Heritage and Arts Management. Each of these organisations have said they can put money or contribution of time on the table. Their aim is to apply for more funding to help boost the money that they already have to offer for commissions. If they are unsuccessful then there will still be a pot of money available to use for commissioning arts projects. We’re unsure how much is in this pot, but the idea is that if the council were to no longer operate that this partnership would still be there with a pot of money to enable arts commissions to continue.

The current projects that have been commissioned by B&NES, and that are listed on their website (link here: Funded Organisations), were funded on a 3 year basis but with an annual review and the option to terminate those commissions if they were not delivering what was being asked. These commissions finish at the end of this financial year and will not be renewed.

The Council have commissioned the Destination Management Plan contract which was won by Bath Tourism Plus. Under this plan there is a section to provide arts provision cultural events [much wider than just arts] within the city. Bath Tourism Plus have engaged Bath Festivals to carry out this part of the commission for them.

B&NES Arts Funding Press Release

On Wednesday 25 January the Council released a very confusing and unclear press release about arts cuts – the article can be viewed on the B&NES website here: Arts Funding Press Release.

During our meeting we asked the Arts Officers to go through each paragraph and explain exactly what was actually meant by them. The original press release is in italics below. Our comments are in blue.



Bath & North East Somerset Council continues to invest in Arts, Film and Tourism and over the next three years we will continue to commission over £2 million of events, festivals and other activities.


This is not just about the Arts budget. This includes the wider department that the arts budget falls under. The other departments include economy, culture, film and tourism, and development of place.


We are one of only two local authorities nationwide that actively brings together all strategic funders including Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery, Creative England, Visit England and the Local Enterprise Partnership to maximise culture, arts and tourism funding into the city and to support joint working of the funders themselves as part of a wider strategic approach to supporting the cultural sector. The Council also owns and runs the Victoria Art Gallery that provides exhibitions, an artist in residence and a programme of creative interactive, arts based fun for young people as well as an internationally recognised Fashion Museum. This is in a city that annually hosts over six million visitors and 300 events, the majority of which don’t use Council funding.  


The other authority is Cornwall. This paragraph refers to the Cultural and Strategic Advisory board (link here: Cultural and Strategic Advisory Board – the terms of reference for the board can be found here: CSAB Terms of Reference), which meets every 6 months. This was formed out of the cultural and creative strategy. It’s a purely strategic board that has no money. They want to include a representative from the cultural sector but this has yet to happen.

The 300 events refer to an audit of events carried out by all of the council’s departments; this includes any event one of the departments has had an enquiry about. There are many more that are not known about.

The profit generated by the council owned museums (Roman Baths, Victoria Art Gallery and Fashion Museum) equals £6m which goes back into a central council pot with other money, which is where arts is funded from. The money is used to pay for non-statuary services (i.e. services that the Council do not have an obligation to provide). A breakdown of council tax and spending can be found here: Council Tax & Spending – there are some useful pie charts on pages 14 and 15. The chart at the bottom of p. 14 entitled ‘Where the money comes from to pay for all the services’ shows the income from Museums, Leisure, Recreation & Tourism:  £16.71m 5.2% (15/16 £16.30m)


Over the past three years the Council has been able to support small arts activity through a grants scheme, which has operated alongside commissioned arts services. Commissioned arts services will continue over the next 3 years focusing on widening participation in the arts and culture across BaNES in our market towns and in some of our more deprived estates and the small arts grants fund will be wound down at the end of this financial year. 


The current administration decided 18 months ago to scrap the grants scheme for the arts. There will be no further arts grants from B&NES. Commissioned arts run on a three year cycle but with the option of terminating at the end of each financial year. The current projects listed on the Council website come to an end at the end of this financial year. New commissions will be released when the budget is set but they will be different to the ones currently listed on the council website. Each one will again be renewable annually.

Anyone wishing to apply for a commission can do so via the Supplying the South West Commissions portal.

Questions & Answers

We also had a series of questions which we ourselves wanted answering and many of which you have submitted to us to find out answers to. Some of these points have been covered above already but we include the full 14 questions below and the answers to them for your reference.

  1. What exactly is under threat?
    The arts service – small arts grants.
  2. In the press release it mentioned £2m across 3 years. Is this an investment in the Local Arts community or just bringing product to the area?
    It’s an investment – but not just related to the arts budget but to the whole department the arts falls under. It’s money the council itself spends on things.
  3. Will B&NES still invest in smaller local companies as the grants currently do?
    Smaller companies can apply for commissions but there will be no arts grants. There will be an impact on smaller companies and organisations.
  4. How would the match funding mentioned in the statement be administered?
    The Council will only fund commissions with match funding themselves.
  5. What schedule is proposed for phasing out B&NES commissioned arts services by 2020? How much does that leave in the budget each year for small grants?
    There will be no more small arts grants. By 2020 commissions from arts budget will be gone as well unless the Council changes its policy in the future.
  6. What will be the effects of the small grants being stopped after March 2017?
    There are no more small grants being awarded. It will effect smaller grass-root organisations.
  7. Are there arts organisations within the £433,000 amount that receive regular funding?
    No. There will be no regularly funded organisations.
  8. Are the posts of the Arts Officers at risk?
    No. Not currently in years 1 & 2. Beyond that is unknown.
  9.  How will the council propose to make up their £37m deficit – e.g. there’s talk or redeploying staff and “doing things differently” but no detail.
    As much information as is available is listed on the Council’s website under the documentation for the meetings on Feb 1st and Feb 14th.

  10. How much time is there before the decision is made?
    February 14th is when they budget will be formally adopted.
  11. Do the meetings on 1st and 14th allow for public speakers / representation?
    Yes. The deadline for speaking at the meeting on 1st of Feb was 5pm on Friday 27th and we believe the meeting on Feb 14th is full.
  12. Will there be any consultation on the cuts?
    This has apparently already happened. Submissions can be made to the meetings though.
  13. Are the arts cuts of benefit to supporting the tourism infrastructure?
    Just a bit. The Bath Tourism Plus commission will include arts cultural events.
  14. How do these cuts tie in with museums funding, libraries etc?
    The museums and libraries have different budgets and different processes. There is some cross-over but not much.

We have done our best to ensure that all of this information is as clear and accurate as possible but if you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch with us – .uk