Culture budget cuts in Flanders: what is happening and what can you do
WHAT WAS DECIDED
On 8 November, the Flemish government has published their plans to make substantial savings on subsidies for the arts from 2020 onwards. The proposed cuts are as follows:
- Subsidies for organisations that receive an operational grant will be decreased by 6%.
- Subsidies for Flemish arts institutions will be decreased by 3%.
- Subsidies for projects and scholarships will be decreased by 60%. That means the budget will fall from 8,466,000 € this year to 3,392,000 € in 2020.
By forcing savings on such short notice, the Flemish government saves and pursues new policies at the same time. As a result, it is not meeting its current commitments. It has these commitments with regard to institutions, organisations and projects.
At no point leading to the decision, the arts sector was consulted by the governing parties N-VA, Open VLD and CD&V.
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES?
The proposed cuts leave a weakened sector behind that has been confronted with savings up to 25 million euros for a continuous period of 10 years. Disruptive consequences for inflow, collaborations, efficiency, employment and, ultimately, the public are to be expected. Given the late decision by the government and the short time span of six weeks before the proposal goes into effect, many organisations will have to face red numbers in 2020.
The Flemish government and Flemish minister of Culture (also MP of the Flemish government) Jan Jambon defended the proposed cuts, stating that cuts are proposed everywhere. But not everyone saves the same amount, which is painfully clear by the 60% cut on project subsidies. The whole Flemish art fields opposes that proposal. Project grants give artists the opportunity to enter and to innovate. The budget for projects already didn’t meet the amount and high quality of the applicants. Instead of cutting in subsidies for projects and grants, the budget should increase to an amount that makes up 15% of the resources for operating grants and arts institutions.
Immediately after the announcement, everywhere in Flanders protests started leading to big press coverage. Sector federations and advocacy organisations like Overleg Kunstenorganisaties (oKo), SOTA, trade unions, Muziekoverleg, VVC, BoekenOverleg, De Federatie and OCE made public statements. Creators, organisations and artists start their performances, exhibitions and concerts with a short statements about the savings and end by making a picture of their audiences, which they share on social media using the hashtag #thisisourculture. Open letters have been sent and published in major news media. Protests were held outside the Flemish parliament and in front of the cabinet of the MP.
Those protests have not yet led to a concession by the government.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?