Arts Council grants freeze is blamed on Government

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THE Arts Council yesterday froze the grants of most of its clients, including the big national companies, following the Government's decision to cut its funding by pounds 3.2m, or 1.69 per cent.

There are some increases for modern dance and the visual arts, but the general fund for new work is cut by nearly pounds 2m and is the clearest loser.

Of the national companies, the National Theatre keeps its pounds 11.1m, the Royal Shakespeare Company its pounds 8.4m, the Royal Opera House its pounds 19.5m, and the English National Opera its pounds 11.6m. The South Bank Centre, home of the Royal Festival Hall, keeps its pounds 13.4m.

The Royal Opera House general director, Jeremy Isaacs, said: 'Although this is better than we had feared it is still grim news for us. We have a deficit to pay off and will have a tough time delivering a surplus for the third year running.'

Lord Palumbo, chairman of the Arts Council, blamed the Government, saying: 'The savage cut in our grant has presented us with some very difficult funding decisions, and placed us in a position where we have been obliged to draw up a range of, in some instances, distinctly unpalatable priorities.

'The cut of 1.69 per cent does not take into account inflation, and the reduction of pounds 3.2m is the equivalent of some pounds 7m in real terms. When the reduction in box-office receipts, the fall in business sponsorship and the severe financial pressures on local government are taken into account, arts organisations generally will ultimately feel the painful effects of a quadruple financial whammy.'

Nicola Thorold, director of the Independent Theatre Council, said that the decision to cut new work, the drama 'projects and schemes', by 12 per cent was a 'devastating blow' and up to 12 touring companies could close.

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