The committee heard evidence from representatives of the North East Culture Partnership, which includes the Sage Gateshead in Newcastle

MPs hear more evidence on regional funding imbalance

Geraldine Kendall, 14.05.2014
London’s deputy mayor defends arts funding policy
Munira Mirza, London’s deputy mayor for education and culture, has denied that the capital is getting more than its fair share of arts funding, arguing that growth in London “begets growth in the rest of the country”.

Mirza was addressing the second hearing of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s inquiry into the work of Arts Council England. The inquiry was set up in response to the Rebalancing our Cultural Capital report, which revealed a large imbalance in funding for London compared to other English regions.

Mirza said it was unfortunate that the debate had been framed as “us versus them”, saying that as a capital city, London had to compete for both a national and international audience.

She said: “I cannot imagine any other country around the world being so upset about the success of its capital.”

Mirza claimed that the report’s figures were skewed because while many arts organisations were based in London, some did the majority of their work outside the capital.

She said: “Even though I think on paper it looks like a stark difference, it looks like a deeply unfair system, what you see in the ways the arts work — and I think people who work in the arts sector recognise this — is that the funding that goes through London then benefits the rest of the country.”

Mirza added: “I am nervous about the idea that a sudden shift of lottery funding from London to the rest of the country would suddenly produce an amazing new arts infrastructure.

“I do not think that would happen and I think what you would get is a political rush to fund certain projects because they are in the right place, because they tick a box, but not because they have a compelling artistic vision or they have built an audience.”

North east

The select committee also heard evidence from representatives of the North East Culture Partnership (NECP).

NECP co-chair Peter Mowbray told the select committee that while there was a trickle-down effect from London, it was a fluid relationship, with the capital benefiting from work produced in other regions too.

Mowbray said that in addition to the funding imbalance, which is particularly pronounced in the north east, there was also a problem with the region's distance from the arts council’s centralised decision-making process.

He said more needed to be done to ensure decisions "are made by people in the region who understand the impact that [lottery funding] can have.”

Speaking after his appearance at the committee hearing, fellow co-chair David Budd told Museums Journal that local authority cuts to culture had been more severe in the north east, with budgets falling 23% since 2011/12 in the region compared to an average of 18% across England overall.

He added: “Local authority reductions have led to a wide ranging loss of arts and heritage posts, and together with the loss of staff in arts council's north east office, the region now has reduced capacity to plan, develop and deliver projects and promote arts lottery activity.”

Budd called for “a more balanced distribution of lottery funding, devolved decision-making and more local partnership working with Arts Council England”.

The select committee will sit again shortly to hear evidence from other arts sector representatives, including the arts council’s chairman Peter Bazalgette.

Comments

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Judith Martin
Project Organiser, Industrial Buildings Preservation Trust
21.05.2014, 20:27
There's no doubt that the subsidised sector in London disseminates elsewhere, both to the commercial sector and , sometimes, to the rest of the country. But by concentrating the major nationally funded bodies in London, DCMS and ACE ensure that young people have to move there to begin their careers. As with internships, this is a whole lot easier if you have generous parental support. As everyone knows, London is a very expensive place to live. So the London/rest-of-country, rich/poor divide becomes deeper. It is absurd to have a policy which effectively empties the rest of the country of their talented young, forcing them to cram into the overheated capital.
The arts in the NE are phenomenal, yet ACE has recently withdrawn funding status from the Side gallery and collective, the little organisation that could be said to have kick-started the whole of Newcastle's quayside regeneration. Peter Mowbray has every right to protest.
Anonymous
MA Member
15.05.2014, 11:54
As a millennial born in the North East of England and trained to Masters level as a museum professional, I have been forced to move away from the area to find a job in this sector.

The greatest proportion of museum/exhibition design related jobs can be found in London. Having no desire to live there, I headed north to Scotland. My last job asked for someone with a (museums related) undergraduate degree and had a salary of £14,000. I was forced to leave this position as I could not live on that wage and am now having to seek work in another sector, unless I choose to move to London.

Mirza claims that "...the funding that goes through London then benefits the rest of the country." I'm still waiting for the benefit to reach me.
Mike Pye
MA Member
14.05.2014, 16:01
Well we would do wouldn't he!!!!!

I am afraid I will have to get political in that I have to say to David Budd that cuts to culture in the north are worst than in the South because of this Tory/Lib-Dem Government rather than with the Local Authorities in the North in that it is the Government who has decreed what councils, of all shapes, political option, and size, can spend and it is this Government who has decreed that the Northern Councils will bear the brunt of the cuts. It is clear from the figures produced by the Local Government Associations that Council’s in the Northern part of the country are being asked to cut more from their budgets than those in the Southern part.

Some key facts:
Funding for local government has been cut by 40% over this Parliament, with councils having to reduce their budgets by a total of £20 billion by 2015/16

David Cameron’s own council, West Oxfordshire – one of the least deprived areas in the country (ranked 316 out of 325 in the indices of multiple deprivation) – is getting an increase in spending power of 3.1% in 2013/14 whereas Northern LA’s are seeing their spending power cut by up to 27%. Unfortunately cultural budgets cannot escape the cuts and I speak as someone who had responsibility for culture when I was an elected member!
14.05.2014, 18:00
Writing from the wealthy South I have to agree with Mike. I live in prosperous Hertfordshire and in the context of the vicious cuts being made elsewhere it's almost embarrassing that my local district council appears to have plenty of money, including investing in a new museum, swimming pool and sports centre. It's pretty shocking.