The UK’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport has confirmed that it will abolish the UK Film Council and have a more direct relationship with the BFI.

The DCMS will shutter the Film Council but has noted specifically that “goverment and Lottery support for film will continue.” The UKFC railed against the shock news, calling it “a bad decision, imposed without any consultation or evaluation.”

The British Film Institute (BFI) will continue to exist, and DCMS said this move will help in “establishing a direct and less bureaucratic relationship with the British Film Institute.”

The move has come as quite a shock to the Film Council as well as the British industry; especially because the UKFC had already been trimming its budgets by more than 25% in response to the economic climate. The organisation currently has a staff of about 70. UKFC CEO John Woodward told the industry: “there appears to have been no evaluation inside Government of the strengths or weaknesses of the UK Film Council.”

The DCMS press statement noted: “Key activities currently carried out by the UK Film Council will continue, including Lottery funding and work in support of film certification for tax purposes. DCMS will now consider options for transferring those responsibilities to other organisations. As a charity, the British Film Institute (BFI) is not within the scope of this review, but the Government is committed to its long term future. DCMS will now consider how to build a more direct relationship between the BFI and Government.”

The move comes as the DCMS merges, abolishes and streamlines 55 public bodies. Today marks the last day in session of the House of Commons before they go on holiday until September 6; film industry sources suggest the timing signals a political maneuver meant to rush through the news. No discussion with the industry will be viable until September now.

In a letter to the British film industry, Woodward noted that Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, whose remit includes film, “has said that the target is to have the organisation totally closed down with its assets and its remaining operations transferred out by April 2012. That does, at least, give us time to honour our current commitments and, as far as possible, to continue our funded support for film while the DCMS  ensures an orderly transfer of remaining film functions to other Government departments and/or agencies.”

In announcing the cuts today, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “The Government is committed to increasing the transparency and accountability of its public bodies, while at the same time reducing their number and cost. Many of these bodies were set up a considerable length of time ago, and times and demands have changed. In the light of the current financial situation, and as part of our drive to increase openness and efficiency across Whitehall, it is the right time to look again at the role, size and scope of these organisations.

“The changes I have proposed today would help us deliver fantastic culture, media and sport, while ensuring value for money for the public and transparency about where taxpayers’ money is spent.”

Working Title’s Tim Bevan, chairman of the UKFC, issued the following statement: “Abolishing the most successful film support organisation the UK has ever had is a bad decision, imposed without any consultation or evaluation. People will rightly look back on today’s announcement and say it was a big mistake, driven by short-term thinking and political expediency. British film, which is one of the UK’s more successful growth industries, deserves better.

“Our immediate priority now is to press the Government to confirm that the funding levels and core functions that are needed to underpin British film are locked-in, especially at a time when filmmakers and film companies need more support than ever as they make the challenging transition into the digital age. To that end, we will work with the DCMS over the summer to identify how they can guarantee both continuity and safe harbour for British film.”

More on the UKFC news:
UK government to shut UK Film Council

UK industry reacts with shock

Opinion: Black day for British film

Hunt says he wants to hear opinions on UKFC plans

Woodward says closing target is April 2012

UKFC: A snapshot

UKFC by the numbers/box office hits