Arts Council England admits funding imbalance

Sir Peter Bazalgette has admitted that the Arts Council England needs to give more focus to regions

New Arts Council director, Jane Tarr
New Arts Council director, Jane Tarr

The Arts Council chief has admitted more must be done to prevent London soaking up cultural funds.

Arts Council England chairman Sir Peter Bazalgette said more focus had to be given to the regions after a damning report was produced suggesting that more than 80% of funding goes to London, home to 15% of the population.

The Rebalancing our Culture Capital report warned that the likes of the North East would continue to lose out on arts funding after slipping down the priorities list after a burst of activity in the 1990s.

Yesterday Sir Peter said that “it is an imbalance, I completely accept that” but defended the Arts Council’s work in the regions.

He said: “There is an imbalance, there’s no question. I’ve only been at the Arts Council for a few months and I’m absolutely passionate about funding arts and culture in the regions. We need to do more.

“I would say judge us in two years time. The trend is towards more spending in the regions and that’s what we’ll be doing

“We have published out new plan, it acknowledges that more has to be done, judge us in two years time.”

The report recommended a funding change which would see some £600m extra handed to the regions over the course of a five-year parliament.

Asked what extra funding will be made available, Sir Peter said: “I’m not going to come up with a specific figure.”

Instead he said more had to be done to ensure that better applications came from the regions, competing for cash against many more bids from within London.

“Arts Councils money has to be applied for, It is all very well having this report, suggesting a top down solution, but quite apart from the fact they credit us with more lottery funding, we do not work top down, it is bottom up, we need applications.

“There is very important work for us to do to generate better applications from the regions.

“But I don’t like this London versus the region rhetoric, I like to talk of London and the regions. 50% of the organisations we fund in the capital tour. A lot of the arts organisations in London do great things for the rest of the country as well and we will require them to do more.”

The report said that in 2012/13, Arts Council England distributed £320m of taxpayers’ money to the arts with £20 per head of population allocated in London against £3.60 in the rest of England.

In the same year the Department of Culture Media and Sport distributed £450m of public funds from the same source directly to major ‘national’ cultural institutions with - the report estimates - £49 per person in London against £1 per person in the rest of the country

Peter Stark, Christopher Gordon and David Powell have insisted their report is not anti-London.

Mr Stark, who lives in Northumberland, said: “It is now with the leadership of the arts in England - in London and outside it and at all scales - to take the debate forward in partnership with local government and others.

“I hope that a new generation will find fuel in the report for the fire of their ambition and rediscover the power of their own voice in the commons in doing so.”

Backing the report, broadcaster Melvyn Bragg said: “This report is timely, urgent and damning of an increasingly centralised funding process. London is simply eating up the resources which are limited and therefore starving the rest of the country. This is wrong, short-sighted and undoubtedly unfair. I think it’s time that the rest of England fought back.”


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