London Mayor Johnson Warns U.K. Government Against Cuts to Arts
July 27 (Bloomberg) --Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said that if the new U.K. government slashes arts spending too radically, everyone will suffer.
“The arts are part of a powerful machine that drives the London economy,” the mayor said in an interview in his office last night. “If you cut too savagely, if you cut the wrong things, the risk is that you will take away one of the things that makes London such an extraordinarily attractive place to live in and invest in.”
Johnson said he wasn’t merely backing the arts for their own sake. “In terms of cold, hard cash, they deliver in London,” he said, “and they deliver for some of the poorest and the neediest people in London, in the sense that they drive investment in our city.”
Prime Minister David Cameron, who took over in May, plans spending cuts and tax increases totaling 113 billion pounds ($174 billion) to shrink a deficit that has widened to 11 percent of economic output. In May, the arts got a 61 million- pound trim. Bigger scale backs will come by late October, with most departments facing inflation-adjusted cuts of 25 percent by 2015.
Earlier this month, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote to Arts Council England -- which delivers subsidies on the government’s behalf -- and to national museums asking them to illustrate, via models, what cuts of 25 percent and 30 percent would mean, according to several recipients of the letter.
Heads of U.K. cultural bodies including the Tate and the Arts Council have publicly said that if cuts are deep, museums will cancel blockbuster exhibitions, theaters will go dark, and 200 of 850 state-funded arts bodies will lose funding.
The mayor spoke in his spacious office overlooking the Tower of London, where he had invited a few arts reporters for an informal drink. Parked by his desk was one of the new bicycles for hire that he is introducing in a London-wide plan to drive down pollution and car use. At one point, he got on the bike and pedaled a few feet on the carpet.
Wall-to-wall shelves overflowed with books on subjects including the Roman Empire, politics and the opera singer Maria Callas, as well as bound copies of “The Spectator,” the weekly that he previously edited. Also on the shelf was a model of a London double-decker bus and a framed “Politician of the Year” award.
Johnson belongs to the Conservative Party, which is the party of Cameron and the main component of the new coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.