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Arts funding focus on London is “unhealthy”, claims report

Arts Council England allocated more than five times as much spending per resident to London organisations as those outside the capital in 2012/13, an independent report has claimed.

The document, called Rebalancing our Cultural Capital [1], says that the funding body allocated £320 million to the arts last year, with £20 per capita going to London, while just £3.60 per head went to the rest of England.

It also claims that National Lottery funding, which is distributed by the arts council, has been allocated more heavily in London as well.

Of a total £3.5 billion of Lottery funding available since 1995, the arts council has provided London organisations with £165 per capita and regional ones with £47 per resident, the document claims.

The report argues that this bias of funding by the arts council, which favours London, has been ongoing for the past 30 years.

Its authors – cultural policy researcher Peter Stark, arts organisation consultant David Powell and former English Regional Arts Boards consortium chief executive Christopher Gordon – said the “excessive dominance of London in national cultural life” was “unhealthy” for the capital and the nation.

They have called for a redistribution of Lottery funding by ACE so that subsidy is proportional to the population across England.

A new £600 million national investment programme should be created specifically to fund cultural activity outside of London, the authors said.

This money would be derived from the reduction in arts Lottery funding within the capital that would be required to make its per capita spending equal to the rest of England, they added.

Adrian Vinken, chief executive of Theatre Royal Plymouth, said that although it was already known that the regions received less ACE funding than London, the extent to which the report claimed this was happening was “eye watering”.

He said: “It is colossally unfair that the regions receive 18% of national cultural investment [per head of population] while London takes 82%. The kind of investment that is a drop in the ocean for London organisations can be transformative for regional ones.”

Vinken added that he wanted to see a 20-year target from policy makers for rebalancing the bias of funding. He said that the report’s suggestion to redistribute National Lottery money so it is proportionate to the population across England was “a first step”.

Alan Davey, chief executive of ACE, said that the report “rightly highlights” that the arts council should continue to target Lottery funds at places with less investment.

However, he said that the report’s per capita figures gave a “misleading impression” that London-based organisations were only for the capital’s residents.

“National organisations based in London belong to the nation. They have a role in artistic development, pioneering digital platforms and touring across England. They, along with great art from the regions, also give us a leading role on the international stage,” said Davey.

He said that during the arts council’s next funding round the organisation would target its money “intelligently” across England.

“It is also vital local authorities continue to invest alongside us as partners. Local authority cuts remain the biggest threat to places outside London,” added Davey.

For more on arts funding, read Simon Tait’s weekly column Funding Matters [2]


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