Arts Council England holds out hope of fairer funding deal

Current funding arrangements which funnel cash to London are "imbalanced" the Arts Council admits - but Culture Minister Ed Vaizey disagrees

Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey
Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey

Arts and cultural bodies across the North East could receive a fairer share of funding in future years, the people responsible for distributing cash have pledged.

Leaders of Arts Council England, which shares out lottery cash for the arts as well as funding directly from the Treasury, said they accepted there was an “imbalance” with London getting the lion’s share while the rest of the country loses out.

But they insisted the situation was improving, with more money going to regions outside London in recent years - and pledged that the trend would continue.

However, giving evidence to a Commons inquiry, the Arts Council also insisted that London organisations had to receive enough money to allow the city to maintain its position as the world’s cultural capital.

And MPs were also told by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey that the arts are “generously funded outside London”.

The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee is holding an inquiry into the work of the Arts Council.

That was in part prompted by a hard-hitting report called Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital which warned that London receives £563.9m a year in culture funding from the Government and the Arts Council - or £68.98 per person - while the rest of the country gets £205.1m or just £4.57 per person.

The study also found that the North East had received £86.22 per head in arts lottery funding since 1995, while Londoners received £165.

The inquiry previously heard evidence from leaders of the North East Culture Partnership, who warned that cash-strapped arts organisations in the North East are spending time filling in grant applications instead of actually taking part in arts and cultural activities.

Tom White/PA Wire The Tyne Bridge and The Sage Gateshead
The Tyne Bridge and The Sage Gateshead
 

Speaking to the committee, Arts Council chair Sir Peter Bazalgette said: “You are quite right point to an imbalance.”

He said it should not be surprising that London received the most funding, but added: “We are addressing years of imbalance but we are addressing it carefully.”

London used to get 51% of funding while the rest of the country got 49% – but this had changed so that London now received 49%, he said.

“That trend should continue this summer.

“Those are very important parts of the work we are doing.”

One committee member, Yorkshire MP Philip Davies, accused the Arts Council of indulging “London luvvies” by spending £347.4m on opera over five years and just £1.8m on brass bands.

Arts Council chief executive Alan Davey told him: “I do want us to increase the amount of money we are giving to brass bands because I think it’s a wonderful pastime”.

But Mr Vaizey played down suggestions of a funding gap, saying: “I think it is nuanced. I don’t want a headline saying it is unbalanced because as I say it is a more subtle picture.

“A lot of the organisations with London postcodes have national profiles and do national work.

“The picture is by no means as bleak as some people would wish to paint it. A great deal of funding has gone to arts organisations outside London and a lot of funding that is supposedly ‘London funding’ is in fact national funding.”

Mr Vaizey praised Gateshead Council for backing the Sage Gateshead concert venue and musical education centre as well as the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, and said he wanted other councils to follow suit.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer