The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra has secured a £1.5 million council subsidy, but has been warned to make savings as grants may be cut next year.
The orchestra will be given its grant in instalments and has been ordered to provide regular financial updates to the city council.
The city’s Labour cabinet also approved a £2.5 million subsidy for the Symphony Hall and Town Hall, who work together under the Performances Birmingham Ltd banner.
The CBSO has been struggling financially as public funding for the arts dwindles. Two years ago musicians agreed to take a wage cut and the organisation was forced to use £240,000 from reserves to avoid a budget shortfall.
It has been traditionally seen, along with the Birmingham Royal Ballet, as one of the ‘crown jewels’ of the city’s cultural scene and a necessity for a city with global ambitions.
The arts employ about 9,000 people and are estimated to be worth £271m for the local economy.
But the council, facing its own funding problems and some questions over whether it should be funding ‘highbrow’ arts which cannot support themselves, has placed a series of strings to the subsidy and warned both the CBSO and Performances Birmingham, and other supported arts groups, that the funding is set to be reduced by £2.15 million by 2015/16.
Council deputy leader Ian Ward (Lab, Shard End) said that a proposal for the two organisations to integrate and save money had collapsed and now they are working on separate cost saving plans.
He said: “We know there is are council budget cuts going forward and I suspect the Arts Council are in the same position. So we have given them time to work on their business plans.”
He said there is a ‘limited risk in the short term’ to the CBSO and he has asked for quarterly updates before each instalment is paid. Groups have also been told to work harder for their money by reaching out to new audiences and developing projects involving youngsters and community groups.
Coun Ward defended the subsidy saying: “The arts have a turnover of £78 million, employ 9,000 people of which 70 per cent live in Birmingham and spend £12.5 million with local suppliers.
"Birmingham is the only UK city outside London with a world class symphony orchestra, it is something to be proud of.”