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The Musicians’ Union Responds to Further Budget Cuts in Birmingham

The Musicians’ Union (MU) has expressed concerns following a further round of cuts to Birmingham culture.

The Musicians’ Union (MU) has expressed concerns following a further round of cuts to Birmingham culture.

Responding to an article in the Birmingham Mail about a further round of cuts totalling £1 million per year to the City’s cultural organisations by Birmingham City Council, Stephen Brown, Midlands Regional organiser said:

“The MU is deeply concerned at the continuing level of cuts being directed at the City’s cultural organisations by the Council as part of the Government’s austerity programme.

Pushed to the limit by cuts

“We have many members working in the sector who are expressing their concerns to us about what’s going on, and feel they have been pushed to the limit already by these cuts.

“For some years, we have seen serious retractions in work opportunities here, with our members pay eroded to the point that the average orchestral musician, at CBSO for instance, has endured a real term pay cut of nearly £7,000 per year since the global financial crash.

“Further, contractual changes have meant they are now expected to do much more for a lot less pay. To date, our members have gone along with it, but the rumblings of discontent are now patently evident. Some are already starting to vote with their feet.

In danger of becoming a satellite station

“What’s happening makes it harder for our members to earn a living and pay their bills, let alone sustain a music career in the City. This issue is not limited to the orchestral sector, and undoubtedly has a knock on effect within the professional music playing community.

“It means that the standard and quality of players available locally becomes a smaller pool. Some professional musicians are having to do second jobs, leaving the industry altogether, or moving to London and Manchester to continue their careers.

“If we are not careful, the City’s once famous Orchestras and cultural organisations will become a mere satellite station for players based elsewhere.

Imbalance in Arts Council funding

“The current imbalance in public cultural funding means that Birmingham receives £4.58 per head of population, whilst London receives £69 and that highlights the scale of the problem we face.

“It’s massively London centric with 50% of all Arts Council money going to London. We are not calling for London to get less, just that the Government provide the City Council with its fair share of cultural ring-fenced funding to address this imbalance.

“We need to secure the long-term future of our City’s great cultural institutions, which, be under no illusions, are under threat.

“The MU is happy to work with the council to try and achieve the objective of improved cultural funding, and pleased that they have agreed to meet us in early January 2019. It is vital that musicians and their representatives have a voice in this debate.

The CBSO is a valuable global brand for the city

“Finally, it is also not helpful to employment relations to have the CEO of the CBSO publicly saying he’ll cut staff benefits when our members have already been the ones to bear the brunt of cuts.

“Our members are already referencing such comments to us and are far from happy about it. We have never see the management having their ‘benefits’ cut to show they are willing to make the same level of sacrifice as our members. After all, our members are the ‘product’ in all of this, and without them, these great cultural institutions in the City would not exist.

“Sir Simon Rattle knew that, and did everything in his power to ensure musicians were looked after because this is a prestigious and valuable global brand for the city, and the Council should take note of that fact.”

Read the original story in the Birmingham Mail.

Published: 14/12/2018

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