British government to end census and chop arts funding as part of budget cuts

10:21, July 11, 2010      

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The British government said on Saturday that it will abolish the 10-yearly census in a bid to save money, and has urged arts organizations to look to charitable and corporate donations to make up for the money they are likely to lose as government funding is axed.

The census has been running at 10-yearly intervals for 200 years, apart from a break during the Second World War, but the need for the government to tackle the record public spending deficit of 153 billion pounds (about 240 billion U.S. dollars) is putting pressure on all areas of the budget.

The Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that the census was too expensive, costing about 482 million pounds each time and that there were cheaper alternatives for collecting census information.

"There are, I believe, ways of doing this which will provide better, quicker information, more frequently and cheaper," he said.

Maude added that census information could be obtained more often than every 10 years, and at a cheaper cost using commercial databases, like credit ratings, or records from public bodies, like councils.

"This would give you more accurate, much more timely data in real time. There is a load of data out there in loads of different places," he said.

Census information is used as the basis for decision-making by central and local government as well as commercial and charitable organizations. However the 10-year gap between censuses means the figures are soon out of date.

In addition, it is believed that over one million homes fail to fill in their census forms.

The move, which is likely to be approved by the Cabinet in the coming week, will not affect the next census. Planning is already well advanced for the 2011 census, which will take place in March.

Most government departments face cuts of between 25 and 40 percent, which the Treasury, the finance ministry, ordered them to prepare for. Only health and foreign aid are excluded from cuts.

The world of the arts has been told by the government to embrace American style fund-raising techniques to make up for coming big cuts in funding from the government, The Financial Times reported on Saturday.

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne met leaders of the artistic community on Thursday, the report said. Present were representatives of some of the leading arts organizations in the country including the British Museum, the Royal National Theater, and the National Gallery.

A Treasury source was reported to have said "This is not an academic exercise. Most departments have been asked to plan on the basis of 25 and 40 per cent real reductions in spending over a four-year period and that's what they have to do."

Hunt said after coming to office in May that even the 9.3 billion pound budget for the Olympics may not be safe, and that there needed to be a major shift in funding, with arts organizations looking to donations from wealthy benefactors and to corporate donations.

The Financial Times newspaper reported one of those present at the meeting as confirming that Hunt had told arts institutions to aim for an American model of philanthropic and corporate funding, rather the current hand-outs from the state budget.



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