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Clear funding imbalance in favour of London must be rectified

5 November 2014

England's Arts council should urgently restore some balance to Arts funding according to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee's report.

The Culture Media and Sport Committee says there is a clear arts funding imbalance in favour of London at the expense of tax payers and lottery players in other parts of the country, which must be urgently rectified.

World centre of culture

Since 2010, the Arts Council has seen its grant in aid fall by a third, a situation that has prompted cuts in staff numbers and difficult decisions about where to target support.  However, while some of the imbalance can be explained by London’s status as a capital city and world centre of culture, the Committee says the Arts Council must do more to redress the balance.

It should also be far more robust with local authorities, especially those like Westminster that do little to support the arts themselves.

Aside from the unfair geographical distribution of arts funding, there is much to praise in the hard work and dedication of the staff of the Arts Council. It takes measured risks to develop the arts and is showing clear signs of improving the transparency of its decision-making although more needs to be done here: this would further help addressing the current situation.  The Committee says it would be disappointed if the Arts Council saw any further fall in its grant in aid, despite the need to recognise prevailing economic conditions.

Rebalancing funding

The report proposes several mechanisms for rebalancing funding:

  • Limiting London’s access to National Lottery funding for the arts to its proper per capita share (equal to that of the rest of England) as proposed in the October 2013 report "Rebalancing our cultural capital"
  • A fairer redistribution of funding could be accelerated in the event of any future increase in Arts Council grant in aid, which should be earmarked for the English regions beyond the M25 area.
  • The Arts Council needs to redouble its already significant efforts at brokering cultural partnerships involving businesses, local authorities, local enterprise partnerships, universities and international organisations, particularly within the EU, which might provide additional funding sources

Chair’s comments

John Whittingdale MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"The Arts Council generally does a good job in allocating limited resources between many competing demands. However, there is a clear imbalance in arts funding in favour of London – which the Arts Council itself admits. This is unfair on tax payers and lottery players in other parts of the country, as well as limiting access to cultural opportunities and enjoyment across the country. 

We heard evidence of well thought out proposals to help redress the balance, starting for example with lottery funding. We welcome the efforts already being made by the Arts Council to shift lottery funding outside of London but would like to see this done faster.

We are disappointed that a few local authorities appear to fail to recognise the value of supporting the arts and we see little point in pumping public money into areas that do not particularly want or need it.  We would expect that the Government Minister with responsibility for the arts should use his position to champion the arts at every opportunity, not least in conversations with local authorities." 

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