Arts Council England responds to regional funding inequity

Patrick Steel, 26.02.2014
Museums Association says disparity needs to be addressed
Arts Council England (ACE) has simultaneously published its submission to the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) select committee, and a report to show the working behind its funding decisions in England.

Entitled This England: how Arts Council England uses its investment to shape a national cultural ecology, the report addresses claims of bias towards London in ACE’s funding.

It states: “Our taxpayer-funded grant-in-aid split is 60/40 in favour of regions outside London, a trend assisted by the inclusion of the funds dedicated to music education hubs and regional museums. We want this trend to continue to develop, and we will target funding where it’s needed, even though overall we do not see the public funding situation improving in the next few years.”


ACE came in for criticism following the publication last year of Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital, which flagged up the disparity in per capita funding to London and the rest of England and called for a rethink on funding policy.

In its submission to the CMS select committee, the arts council suggests that a wider approach to analysing per capita funding to its national portfolio organisations shows a more balanced spread: “Analysing our spend per head by standard government postcode region, rather than metropolitan centres masks the scale of our investment in cities outside London,” the submission states. “Taking a 20 mile radius around the self-identified core cities shows a less marked variation between London and other centres.”

However these figures exclude a number of national companies based in London including Royal Opera, English National Opera, the Royal National Theatre and the Southbank Centre.


The report also presents figures showing the impact of touring outside London as a result of ACE funding, stating: “If a company is touring, it doesn’t matter to the audience where its base is… it is more important to measure where the impact of an organisation is felt, rather than its administrative postcode.”

David Anderson, president of the Museums Association, said ACE had not addressed the scale of the crisis. "The funding system is broken and the assumptions that have underpinned it for decades no longer apply.

"All roads lead back to Government and ACE. Rather than producing selective evidence in defence of inequity, and pushing blame for the crisis down to local authorities, we need Ed Vaizey and Alan Davey to accept the need for fundamental change, and come up with a funding model that recognises the vital role of local museums in their communities. They are responsible."

And Christopher Gordon, one of the authors of Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital, said: “This England and ACE’s submission to the select committee don’t seem to say anything that substantially might contradict our analysis and conclusions in Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital. The way the figures are represented is slightly different in places but I don’t see a major shift in the results or conclusions.”

ACE’s CMS select committee submission highlights the fact that only two of its 16 Major Partner Museums are based in London, and points to its aims to support diversity and resilience in its investment plans for 2015-18.

Local authorities are still the biggest funder of culture outside London, the submission states, despite local government spending on arts and museums falling by 6.8% between 2010/11 and 2012/13. The submission also points to the £401m, from a nationwide budget of £447m, spent on national museums in London by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.


Maurice Davies, the Museums Association’s head of policy and communications, said: “In view of the amount of DCMS funding for national museums in London, ACE should question how much funding it gives to museums in London.

“And while looking at funding over a 20 mile radius is a good contribution to the debate, the figures are still definitely skewed towards London so it doesn’t change the issue at the heart of this discussion, and there is clearly still a policy discussion to be had.”

An arts council spokeswoman said: “We acknowledge that there is more that we want to do to develop art and culture across all of the country but we would suggest that ‘spend per head’ analyses are not a useful basis for arts funding policy.

"An even spend per head of population with no centres of critical mass would not be a desirable outcome. Investment in these core cities means that we have concentrated our funding on urban centres to reach the largest numbers of audiences.”

Update
26.02.2014


This article was updated to include a response from the arts council.

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