London still takes lion’s share of funding

Report into Arts Council England's latest funding announcement claims that the reallocation of funding towards the regions has been 'glacially slow'. Patrick Steel reports
Patrick Steel
The authors of Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital, a report into Arts Council England (ACE) funding allocations, claim the latest funding settlement, announced on
1 July, has not addressed the imbalance of funding between London and the English regions.

National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) funding is £339.5m in 2015-16, with £70m for grants for the arts and £104m for strategic funds. Major Partner Museum (MPM) funding for 2015-18 is £22.6m.

The arts council claims it is moving in the right direction, with “an overall shift” in spending on NPOs outside London, from 49% in 2008 to 53% in 2015-16.

Unallocated grants for the arts and strategic funds, it adds, will be weighted to “ensure that ambition and talent outside London continues to thrive”.

But the ROCC authors describe the move as “glacially slow”, adding that the unallocated funds in this round “are clearly wholly inadequate to address the scale of these outstanding challenges”.


That is the feeling among visual arts organisations in the south-west, which received a total of £8.6m, compared with £48.3m for the visual arts in London –a disparity even after adjusting for per capita allocations.

Spacex in Exeter lost its NPO status, while Plymouth Arts Centre and the Arnolfini in Bristol received cuts of 27% and 25% respectively.

Only three visual arts organisations in the region enjoyed an increase in their funding: Southampton’s John Hansard Gallery, which received a 0.5% rise; Spike Island Art Space, which received 77.7% more to include support for region-wide organisation Visual Arts South West; and Situations in Bristol, which joined as a new NPO.

An ACE spokeswoman says the figures partly reflect the fact that, of the 10 organisations that were reclassified from visual arts to combined arts because of a shift in their programming, three are in the south-west. She adds that many organisations that ACE funds have an impact far beyond their postcode.

Also hit in the funding round was The Lowry in Manchester, which received a 20% cut. Its chief executive Julia Fawcett says the arts council has signalled this is because ACE will not prioritise permanent single-artist collections.

Standstill funding

Most NPOs received stand-still funding – a cut in real terms – including the Turner Contemporary in Margate, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, the Whitechapel Gallery, the New Art Gallery Walsall, the Hepworth Wakefield, the Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool, Pallant House Gallery, Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, Fact in Liverpool and the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill.

It was a similar story for the 16 MPMs, which, with the exception of a 0.2% increase for York Museums Trust, all received cuts, in order to fund five new museums and consortia (see box).

The hardest hit was Birmingham Museums Trust, which will suffer a real-term cut of 44.5% by 2018. Director of operations Simon Cane says the trust is carrying out an organisational review, and everything it does is being considered in light of the reduced funding.

The East Midlands has received its first MPM funding, with a £2.5m award to Derby and Nottingham Museums.

Several former Renaissance hubs that missed out on MPM funding last time have been welcomed back to the fold. Kim Streets, the chief executive of Museums Sheffield, stresses that the trust had received strategic support funding from ACE in the intervening period.

She regards the £1.8m award as a chance to build partnerships regionally and nationally, and to improve resilience by increasing the organisation’s retail offer. Streets adds that being an MPM will boost credibility with other funders.

Hope in Hull

Simon Green, the head of heritage at Hull City Council, hopes that this credibility, in conjunction with Hull’s status as City of Culture in 2017, will help him find extra funding for the service as it faces a £150,000 budget cut this year.

Hull, in consortium with East Riding of Yorkshire Council and North Lincolnshire Council, will use its £2.5m award to evaluate and develop audiences across the region and increase work with under-fives.

However, some in the museum sector are concerned that local authorities might see extra funding from the arts council as an excuse to cut funding.

New Major Partner Museums

  • Black Country Living Museum and Coventry Museums.
  • Derby and Nottingham Museums.
  • Hull City Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council and North Lincolnshire Council.
  • Museums Sheffield.
  • Penlee House Museum, National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Falmouth Art Gallery, Porthcurno Telegraph Museum and Royal Cornwall Museum.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.