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Select committee to investigate London arts funding bias

London's National Theatre. Photo: David Samuels
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Parliament is to hold an inquiry into whether arts funding is distributed fairly across England, or is too heavily weighted towards London.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has announced that it will be holding a “short inquiry” into the work of Arts Council England. The inquiry will include a general investigation into the remit of the arms-length funding body, but it will also “seek views on whether the geographical distribution of funding is fair and the justification for the current weighting of this towards London”.

The news follows last year’s publication of a report, entitled Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital, which claimed that ACE allocated more than five times as much spending per resident to London organisations as those outside the capital in 2012/13.

The report argued 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.

Following the publication of the report, shadow culture minister Helen Goodman called on the government to take “urgent action to rebalance the cultural economy”.

Last week, Arts Council England announced a 2% cut to its core funding for cultural organisations from 2015/16, in a move which will also see Lottery cash used for regular revenue funding of the arts for the first time. Previously, ACE has only used exchequer money for its regular, core funding streams. It has previously used Lottery money for one-off grants, building projects and to fund specific organisations via focussed pots of money, for example for touring work.

However, from 2015/16 to 2017/18, it will employ an estimated £60 million of Lottery money annually to help fund its national portfolio organisations.

It has not been announced whether the select committee will be looking into whether the move breaches the “additionality principle” which was enshrined when the National Lottery was launched in a White Paper in 1992 and declared that “the government does not intend that the money provided from the Lottery should substitute for that provided in other ways… the government will not make any case by case reduction in conventional expenditure programmes to take account of awards from the Lottery proceeds”.

The select committee is inviting written evidence from those who wish to contribute to the inquiry. Written submissions should be sent online via the “Arts Council England” inquiry page of its website. Submissions should be received by February 24, 2014.


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