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Government plans to kill off culture department blasted

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Design chiefs have condemned the government's rumoured plan to abolish the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and warned that the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment will become an 'artless adjunct to the planning system'.

Westminster whispers say the department will be axed after the next election and its tasks dished out to other ministries. CABE and English Heritage would be shunted across to the DETR while DTI number crunchers could take a red pen to the arts.

Last week the DCMS said the creative industry's 1.3 million people in architecture, art, fashion, film and software earned £112.5 billion. Its Creative Industries Mapping Document revealed architecture was worth £1.7 billion and had 21,000 employees.

But Rory Coonan, former head of architecture for the Arts Council, said: 'The idea all art is part of creative industry is a mistake. Artists are businesslike but they are not in business. Lumping them under the DTI would be folly. It's typical that having waited 50 years to get 'culture' attached to the name of a department, we propose to take it out.'

He warned that CABE would lose its artistic bite: 'Moving it to the DETR would be bad. It would reduce it to an adjunct of the planning system and lose the art of architecture emphasis it enjoys by virtue of the DCMS connection.'

RIBA president-elect Paul Hyett said he recently raised the DCMS's future with an advisor to culture secretary Chris Smith, who denied the department was for the chop. Hyett said he felt it was 'unusual grouping sport with culture'.

CABE refused to be drawn on 'speculation', but the Arts Council said a culture department and culture minister were crucial to the arts in this country.

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