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DCMS Committee calls for urgent financial support and new regional funding focus to level up country through culture

2 November 2022

Urgent financial support is needed for theatres, museums and leisure centres facing an ‘existential threat’ from the cost-of-living crisis, MPs say today in a Report warning that the Government needs to tackle geographical funding imbalances for arts and culture if it is to fulfil its commitment to ‘levelling up’ the UK.

The Report from the DCMS Committee follows an inquiry looking at whether funding for cultural initiatives has been reaching areas that historically have missed out, and the role creative talent and businesses could play in revitalising public spaces post-pandemic.

Amid the cost-of-living crisis, the Committee calls on the Government to urgently bring forward targeted support, such as through VAT or business rate relief, to cultural, sporting and media organisations to prevent ‘exacerbating long-term scarring’ of those already hit hard by Covid-19.

The Committee also argues that there should be a new model of funding to ensure grassroots organisations do not miss out in areas where there are national cultural institutions, which often receive the most significant levels of public cash. Major institutions should also have a duty to open themselves up to audiences across the country and support grassroots organisations, while the Government should better incentivise private investment.

The Report also urges the Government to address skills shortages in the creative sector by supporting schools that provide vocational, industry-backed qualifications and says funding bodies should press the industry to improve working practices and conditions.

Chair's comments

DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight MP said:

“Local museums, galleries and theatres have a huge role to play in regenerating high streets and town centres away from the big cities, but they run up against pervasive and persistent barriers to their success. With spiralling energy bills exacerbating the scars inflicted by the pandemic, the Government must come forward with targeted support to ensure local organisations are not hit by a wave of closures at a time when art and culture is more important than ever in providing people with an escape from the harsh realities of the cost-of-living crisis.

In the longer term, a new model of funding is needed which stops cash for culture being hoovered up by all the big players and instead recognises the importance of the grassroots and opening up world-class exhibitions and performances to new regional audiences. People should be put at the centre of efforts to level up the country through culture. The Government’s renewed focus on skills and vocational education must include support for industry-backed schools, training and apprenticeships. This will both help to tackle the chronic skills shortage inflicting the sector and provide a ladder of opportunity for people across the country.”

Main conclusions and recommendations

Cultural placemaking – the role of arts, culture and heritage in shaping the places where we live
  • Funding and support for arts and culture emulates the broader geographic disparities across the UK. Outside London and the South East, there are areas still not receiving the necessary investment to support their own local and world-class institutions while, in London and the South East, grassroots organisations in deprived areas are experiencing serious financial risk due to a handful of organisations receiving significant proportions of public funding.
  • The Government and Arts Council England should separate funding for national institutions from local and regional institutions and ensure that national cultural organisations have different conditions of public funding, including increasing access to nationwide audiences and supporting grassroots organisations.
  • The Government should consider how to support arts and culture through means other than one-off funds, such as sustainable public funding settlements and by encouraging private investment.
  • The cost-of-living crisis poses an existential threat to the cultural, sporting and media organisations at the centre of communities. The Government must bring forward targeted support, such as through VAT or business rate relief.
Participation and social mobility
  • It is a matter of serious concern that despite the UK’s status as home to successful, world-renowned creative industries, the sector is experiencing a significant and ongoing national skills shortage.
  • Funding bodies, such as the Arts Council and Historic England, should ensure the sector works to improve working conditions.
  • The Committee is concerned that cultural education is seen as of lesser importance to the curriculum, feeding negative perceptions of careers in the creative industries. The Government should ensure the long-term viability of schools that provide vocational, industry-backed qualifications.
  • The Government should support the development of a network of hubs providing cultural spaces, workspaces and free, fast internet access in places most in need of levelling up in order to modernise library service provision.

Further information

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