The government is being urged to redirect funding from London institutions to those outside of the capital – as figures reveal the city received half of the total spending on culture in England over the past seven years.
According to a new report from independent think tank Onward, which took into account funding from Arts Council England and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 47% of the total spending between 2010/11 and 2017/18 went to organisations in London.
Over this period, culture funding per head in London was £687, which was nearly five times the average in the rest of the UK (£144).
The figure was around thirteen to fourteen times higher than the East of England (£52), East Midlands (£51) and South East (£48), and nearly seven times higher than the West Midlands (£102).
The report, called Levelling Up: Rebalancing Growth Enhancing Spending, looks at how the government can rebalance its spending in four areas; transport, housing, innovation and culture, across the country.
Other key findings relating to culture:
• The current pattern of cultural spending “seems to reflect historical patterns of spending that hugely favour London”.
• Of the funding from DCMS to cultural organisations from 2010/11 to 2017/18, £9 in every £10 (89%) was spent in London.
• A more regionally balanced example of culture spending is Historic England, which spent around 14% of its budget in London over the four years 2015/16 to 2018/19.
Ahead of the budget on March 11 and a forthcoming spending review, the report makes a number of recommendations to the treasury and urges the chancellor to “use every tool at his disposal” to level up regional growth.
It is recommended that the government redirect money from national institutions and reinvest the savings in growing cultural provision outside London.
The report also urges the government to encourage and build new institutions in areas outside London.
According to the study, this could involve supporting entirely new institution using existing assets such as the government or British Council art collections, or encouraging existing national organisations to set up new institutions outside London.
Conservative MP Neil O’Brien, who co-authored the report with researcher Guy Miscampbell, said: “For decades we have piled fertiliser on the parts of our economy that are already flourishing while refusing to water the seeds of growth elsewhere.
“The prime minister’s mission to level up poorer parts of the country is vital. To change trends that have gone in the wrong direction for decades will need not a few tweaks, but taking a bazooka to the problem.”
He added: “That means we have to use every tool at our disposal, starting by rebalancing the types of spending that do most for growth towards poorer areas.”
The report follows on from previous studies, including a 2013 report called Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital which found that ACE allocated more than five times as much spending per resident to London organisations as those outside the capital in 2012/13.