Archive for October, 2010

Today’s guest moo comes from Fiordilatte, who is is visiting from the creative industries to talk about how the rather large cut in the culture budget will lead to losses to the economy…

Yesterday’s Comprehensive Spending Review will see the Arts Council of England, the main body for the distribution of public funds to the arts, lose 29.6% of its £450m budget over the next four years. This is a hard hit, even though Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has demanded that the cuts to regularly funded organisations are capped at 15%.

The good news is that the free entry to museums and galleries is, at least for the moment, staying in place. Major attractions and big players in the arts field also have a relatively secure future – reshuffling for the 15% cuts will be tough, but everyone is bracing themselves for hard times.

At greater risk, though, are the smaller arts organisations, the one-off projects, the more innovative and risk-taking initiatives. These are affected not only by the cuts to ACE, but also by cuts to local authorities, universities, and schools.

The result? A depleted art world where fewer organisations will produce less diverse projects.

This is extremely disappointing for a country that prides itself to be at the forefront of creativity and innovation in the arts. For a drop-in-the-ocean saving in the deficit, we risk missing out on the vitality and resilience that a thriving arts sector can bring to a community.

The arts, in fact, are about more than just the eye-catching projects that attract tourists by the storm.

Art projects can be a real opportunity for introspection and development. Getting involved in the arts is a tool for self-expression, and can allow participants to elaborate on life experiences in personal and significant ways. Relating to others through the medium of art, whether making it or discussing it, can be a life-changing experience of self-discovery. Especially in the case of vulnerable individuals, participation to a creative project can reach where a more standardised approach has failed. The arts are highly involved in socially engaged practice, and make a real difference to quality of life and social cohesion.

Artists as professionals are incredibly entrepreneurial, likely to juggle a job that would cover living costs with the demands of a portfolio career. They often contribute not just their art but also stepping in as technicians, mediators, curators, teachers. The sector as a whole is committed and resourceful. Average salaries are low, especially when compared to those with similar education levels; the actual public spending dedicated to the arts is minimal as a projected £350m budget for 2014 demonstrates. And yet, the creative economy has shown continuous growth, and contributes to the wealth of the surrounding area: for each pound invested in the arts, £2 is returned to the local economy[1]. The cuts announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review could signify a loss to the wider economy of £700m over four years, counting the cuts to ACE alone. However the cultural sector will be affected also by cuts in other departments, especially local authorities, universities and schools.

The arts are a mirror for society, a channel through which we can come to question ourselves and the way we live. Especially as we face times of change, we need the arts as a reminder to look beyond the everyday, to feel connected to our fellow humans, and to imagine that a different future is possible.



[1] Taken from the article You can cut us but don’t kill us, says the UK’s cultural leaders by the Arts Council England Press Office

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The long-awaited spending review was announced today. Here are some quick notes and thoughts from the pasture on how it impacts green spending:

  • After hearing not a lot about it over the past few months, the commitment of £1 billion to fund the Green Investment Bank was a welcome surprise. You may remember that we’ve written about it before amidst worries that the Bank would be shelved.  While it is not the £1.5 billion that Alistair Darling set aside for it, the Chancellor added that he hoped that private investors would add to the funds.
  • We are not entirely sure what to make of the £1bn investment in carbon capture and storage technology and £200m on wind farms. Choosing which technology to invest in is always a gamble but the current government seems to have put its money on CCS. Can the investment be more effectively spent by broadening it to any green technologies?
  • News that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)’s spending is to be cut 5% each year comes as both a relief and a worry. There were fears that cuts would be much deeper but 5% is still a worry, totalling up to 20% by 2014. Interestingly, DECC is labour leader Ed Miliband’s old department.
  • Correspondingly, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will be seeing cuts to funding of 8% per year, or nearly a 1/3rd by 2014. Earlier news reports revealed that Natural England and the Environment Agency, both Defra quangos, will see ‘substantial reform’ and budget cuts.

Daisy’s write-up of the Tory manifesto during the general election furore will give you a quick refresher about what they promised with regards to the environment. It all seems on par at the moment, although we hope that they have a plan for the 80% cuts in carbon emissions post DECC and Defra cuts.

More to come this week:

A more in-depth review of the impact of spending cuts to the environment

Arts cuts – Are we cutting more than we can afford?

In the meantime, read more:

Spending Review: Osborne wields axe – BBC Live

Spending Review – The detailed report – Directgov

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Cows in this pasture have been anxiously watching the news about the toxic heavy metal sludge in Hungary. In case you have not heard (and it would have been easy to miss what with local news concerned about spending cuts, the commonwealth games, terrorism and x-factor), toxic sludge containing heavy metals ‘escaped’ from the reservoir of an alumina plant on Monday afternoon, flooding the area around for about 40 square km, including nearby towns.  It has so far killed four people and injured about 120 more.


The sludge reservoir before leakage. It is easy here to compare the size of the reservoir with nearby towns. (Google Maps)


In addition to the human toll, there are fears that the environment may suffer great consequences. Worse still, the damage may not be limited to the local area: the sludge has already made its way into a local river, killing all the fish, and is threatening to move onto the Danube.  Hungary’s Environment Minister Zoltan Illes has called the sludge flood an ‘ecological catastrophe’ and has predicted that it will take a year to clean up.

While an official decision has not been made yet, the type of site and the incident makes it likely that this case will be covered by the European Union’s Environmental Liability Directive (ELD). The ELD came into force in 2007 with the aim of implementing the “polluter pays” principle whereby operators are financially liable for any environmental damage caused by their business activities.

The ELD is relevant here as it:

  • replaced legislation that only required polluters to be liable for any damages to owned property (for example in this situation they would be liable for death of livestock but not wild animals).  The ELD ensures that the polluter is now fully liable for any damage they have caused, regardless of whether the resources they have damaged are owned or not.
  • defines which ‘resources’ are covered (pretty much anything that has been scientifically and legislatively deemed worth protecting).
  • recognises that it will be a long time before the natural environment can recover. So the ELD recognises that compensation measures should also address the losses until such recovery is achieved or provide extra measures if damage is irreversible.

The primary aim of the ELD is to prevent such incidents from happening – by broadening the definition of damage and hence increasing the cost of clean-up and compensation, the Directive makes investment in prevention relatively cheaper.

Unfortunately this incident has occurred and we need now to concentrate on getting the most comprehensive and effective compensation measures in place.


‘One year’ to clean toxic spill in Hungary – BBC News

Hungary battles to stem torrent of toxic sludge – BBC News

Hungarian chemical sludge spill ‘threatens Danube’ – BBC News

Hungary sludge flood called ‘ecological disaster’ – The Independent

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