skip to main content

MU Briefing: What MPs Need to Know About Arts Council England Funding Cuts

Facts, figures and Union talking points about arts funding to use in your own conversations with friends, colleagues and decision-makers.

Published: 18 January 2023 | 12:35 PM
Westminster Hall
MPs will be looking at Arts Council England’s funding decisions in a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday 18 January. Photo: Shutterstock

MPs will be looking at Arts Council England’s funding decisions in a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday 18 January.

The Musicians’ Union is briefing MPs in advance both individually and through the Performers’ Alliance All Party Parliamentary Group – a group of MPs and Peers interested in the work of and challenges faced by MU, Equity and The Writers’ Guild members.

Here’s a run through some of the key facts, figures and union talking points, which you may find useful in your own conversations about arts funding with friends, colleagues and decision-makers.

Key facts and figures about arts funding

Details of the funding cuts

If you’ve been following the news, opt in to the MU’s weekly member newsletter or follow the union on social media, you will already be aware of cuts to English National Opera and the campaign to protect it.

ENO is set to lose £12.8m from its annual funding and instead will receive just £17m over the next three years to “develop a new business model.” The announcement was accompanied by the recommendation that the organisation relocates from London to Manchester by 2026 – an area already covered by Opera North, which has a presence in Manchester.

The funding cut announcement is particularly shocking as ENO has exceeded many of the success criteria set for it by ACE in terms of young audience growth, increased diversity and representation, and financial stability. Its outreach work includes ENO Breathe, a programme helping people recover from Covid 19, which is available through 85 NHS Trusts.

While it has just been announced that ENO will get some National Lottery for the financial year starting in April 2023, this only gives the workforce one year’s reprieve. There is still a huge amount of uncertainty regarding ENO’s future, and the campaign to protect it continues.

Britten Sinfonia has also lost its annual grant of £400k, putting the organisation at risk. It currently serves the east of England, which is not otherwise well provided for, and has a number of highly valued community programmes in schools, prisons, hospitals and marginalised coastal communities. 

Glyndebourne’s 52% cut from £1.6m to £800k a year has meant that the organisation is no longer able to tour as planned in 2023.

ACE funding cuts also affect the following organisations and their National Portfolio funding, which has been cut: Welsh National Opera (33%), London Sinfonietta (41%), Royal Opera House (13%), London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia (12%).

It’s not just funding cuts that threaten the future of music in the UK. City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) has seen standstill funding, which over the years has led to a serious squeeze on the incomes of musicians and many unfilled seats in the orchestra.

In fact, across the Midlands region, freelance orchestras have not seen the uplifts the Union would have hoped for. Sinfonia Viva (Derby) for instance has seen its funding remain static and Orchestra Of The Swan (Stratford) was turned down altogether. There are huge swathes of the region that get no ACE funding for orchestras.

The MU will be campaigning for arts funding across the UK in the coming months

Look out for more on this from the union across social media, and opt in to get news emails from the MU for the latest news and actions.

Get MU membership today

From gig players to part-time teachers and professional instrumentalists, MU members can access specialist insurance for musicians. This includes accident cover, health schemes, travel insurance and car insurance add-ons through the Musicians’ Union.

Explore our member services

  • Get public liability insurance for musicians
  • Access expert legal support
  • Be represented in your profession
  • Access expert career advice, resources, and training events
  • Connect, network, and get to know the community of musicians

Learn about all membership benefits

Get MU membership today

Continue reading

Read more about the developing story on the arts funding

Exterior of the Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff, where the Welsh National Opera is based.

MU Responds to Welsh National Opera Cuts

Musicians' Union members in the orchestra of Welsh National Opera (WNO) are facing a reduction in working weeks, equating to a 15% pay cut as a result of a funding shortfall for the company.

Published: 28 March 2024

Read more about MU Responds to Welsh National Opera Cuts
Audience hands in the air in front of a stage, representing community and positive wellbeing.

Why Arts Funding is Essential

From boosting the economy to enriching the lives of marginalised communities across the UK, we explore how the arts lie at the very heart of our physical, social and cultural wellbeing.

Published: 19 March 2024

Read more about Why Arts Funding is Essential
Close up of two people sat with acoustic guitars representing music lessons.

MU Welcomes Labour Party Music Education Pledge

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has pledged to make the arts accessible to every child in Britain and to reverse a Conservative education policy that has decimated the uptake of arts subjects in state schools.

Published: 12 March 2024

Read more about MU Welcomes Labour Party Music Education Pledge