Sunday, 3 November 2013

Fair funding for the arts?

In my column in this week’s Cornish Guardian, I have focussed on the report which has shown arts funding is disproportionately spent in London. The article is as follows:

The over-centralised nature of the United Kingdom means that many areas – deemed peripheral by central government – lose out financially to London and the South East of England.

This has been reinforced by the publication of an independent report which reveals a shocking bias towards London in the allocation of public funding for the arts.

Titled “Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital,” the report notes that, in 2012-2013, Arts Council England distributed a total of £320m of taxpayers' money. London received £20 per head of population, compared to £3.60 per person elsewhere.

And last year, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport distributed £450m of public funding to what it deemed “major national cultural institutions.” The figures are truly shocking – the report states that London receives £49 per head of population compared to just £1 per person outside the capital.

Taken together, the figures show that for every sixteen pounds of taxpayers' money allocated to the arts in 2012-2013, fifteen pounds went to London.

But the distribution of such funding is not a one off “blip.” The report demonstrates that such unbalanced expenditure has been the norm for years.

The distribution of Lottery funding also significantly favours London. Arts Council England has had responsibility for £3.5 billion from the National Lottery since 1995, of which London received £165 per head of population compared to £47 elsewhere.

Such inequity cannot – in any way – be justified, and this compelling new report rightly argues that “there is a need for geographically proportionate distribution [of funding] related to size of population.”

It is also to be welcomed that a number of prominent figures in the industry have thrown their support behind the report, which was produced by three individuals at their own expense.

Broadcaster and author Melvyn Bragg described the document as “timely, urgent and damning of an increasingly centralised funding process.” He added: “London is simply eating up the resources, which are limited, and is starving the rest of the country."

Film director David Puttnam meanwhile hit out at the “wholly unjustifiable scale of bias towards London” and condemned the “policies that allow London – most especially affluent Londoners – to be underwritten at the expense of the rest of the country."

It is certainly noteworthy that the Prime Minister recently admitted the UK “has been too London-centric for far too long.” But we need action from him and his Government – not just words.

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