Arts lottery funding skewed in favour of wealthy

Report finds that areas that contribute most to Lottery get the least back
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Rebecca Atkinson
A report published today claims that arts lottery money has disproportionately benefited the most prosperous areas of England.

The Place Report: Policy for the Lottery, the Arts and Community in England, looks at how Arts Council England (ACE) distributes arts lottery money.

The report states: “The arts lottery has disproportionately benefited the most prosperous and ‘arts engaged’ communities in England, which are often also those contributing least to the Lottery. Some of the least arts-engaged and poorest communities, meanwhile, who are contributing most heavily to the ‘arts good cause’, receive the least return."

The report calculates that London, the South East and East of England have a surplus from the arts lottery of £416m when the contribution of ticket sales is compared to the amount spent on the area. This compares to deficits in the East and West Midlands (£140m), the South West (£60m) and the North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber (£216m).
The report also found that the 33 English local authorities where people are least engaged with the arts (with a combined population of six million) have received £288m arts lottery funds since 1995 (£48 per head of population).

In contrast, the 33 areas (with a combined population of 4.8 million) with the highest levels of arts usage have received £1.327bn across the same period (£275 per head of population).

David Anderson, president of the Museums Association, said: "Public funding is supposed to counter market failure. Instead, as the Place Report reveals, the impact of arts lottery funding in England is only to deepen national inequity. It is strategic policy failure on an heroic scale. The arts funding system in England is broken. The time to change it is now."

David Fleming, director of National Museums Liverpool, said: "The report suggests that those responsible for allocating public moneys for cultural activity are going to have to analyse public needs much more carefully and justify their decisions much more openly than they have up until now. And when it comes to spending public funds, you can't have too much openness."

The report also claims that the guiding principle that arts lottery funds should be for new and additional activity is being eroded, with Lottery proceeds increasingly being used to fund organisations and regular programmes of work that was previously funded through grant-in-aid.

But Peter Bazalgette, chairman of the arts council, insisted that it closely follows directives for how Lottery money is spent.

“We are working in challenging economic times with pressure on our own income and local authority funding but despite this we have increased our support through Lottery for the grassroots across England in the last three years, focusing on creating culture in places that have low levels of engagement, touring great art to every corner of England, creating new jobs for young people, helping cultural organisations develop new sources of income and access funding from private sources, and making the arts more sustainable, resilient and innovative," he said.

“We recognise there is more to do and if National Lottery income levels stay healthy we will improve on this trend, bringing great art and culture as close to home as possible for everyone.”

The report proposes an alternative model for distributing arts lottery funding, with programmes focused on engagement with areas of disadvantage, economic impact and artistic practice.

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