Birmingham's best-known arts organisations are to share an unexpected cash bonus following a change of heart by the city council.
Leaders of the council's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition have reversed a controversial decision to order the CBSO, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Midland Arts Centre and nine other bodies to cut their spending.
A month ago the council cabinet decided to award a 2.75 per cent increase in grants to 13 major arts organisations but at the same time imposed a 2.5 per cent efficiency saving.
Cabinet leisure, sport and culture member John Alden said that their hands were tied since the Government's Gershon agenda required local authorities to make savings across the board. There was no option but to pass on the 2.5 per cent efficiency savings to grant-aided organisations.
The effect of his original decision would have been to limit the net grant increase to a quarter of a per cent.
Yesterday, however, Coun Alden (Con Har-borne) told a cabinet meeting it was not necessary to pass on the savings after all. Coun Alden said: "Having considered the issue of Gershon in the light of additional information received, I as cabinet member recommend that the savings be not applied in these circumstances."
Coun Alden did not specify the information he had received, but the initial decision to insist on savings attracted criticism from Labour councillors who argued that the Government never intended Gershon to hit charitable arts bodies.
The arts groups, which stand to receive a total of #5 million in council grant, will be #170,000 better off as a result of the U-turn.
Labour culture spokesman Tahir Ali said Coun Alden had been forced into a humiliating U-turn.
Coun Ali (Lab Nechells) added: "Following the rejection of the Eastside library and the scrapping of the Fireworks Fantasia, it is clear that the cultural interests of Birmingham are unsafe in the hands of the city's most accident-prone cabinet member."
Council leader Mike Whitby said it showed the Tory-Lib Dem coalition cared about culture. Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) added: "The arts and culture play a major part in our international reputation and the council is undoubtedly a custodian and champion of the arts."