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Lottery funding rules dumped

Culture secretary Sajid Javid. Photo: Jed1357
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For the first time ever, Lottery money is to be used to replace grant-in-aid arts funding. Those ‘additionality’ rules so jealously preserved by John Major’s Conservative government after they brought in the National Lottery 20 years ago – rules that set aside Lottery bunce for special projects, capital building that could otherwise not have happened and training programmes which are beyond the norm in the public sector – and for which the opposition railed against the Labour government when it played fast and loose with them, have been dumped. Unceremoniously.

ACE’s Alan Davey says it is a pragmatic decision. With the 36% cut he has had since 2010, less than half the number of organisations he is funding in the 2011 settlement could be in the 2015-18 portfolio, so the snipping of the red tape is justified.

No it isn’t. As everyone except the last three culture secretaries knows, the government’s subsidy to culture is tiny by any comparison, and the proportion of gain from that tiny investment is gargantuan. The city of Berlin gives more to the arts than the Arts Council is allowed to for the whole of England.

The government has fiddled with the National Lottery to ensure that more comes the way of what used to be called “the good causes”. Bravo, but now it is replacing the financial responsibility the government statutorily has with the proceeds of gambling. The specialness of the Lottery, which has given us the best museums, theatres and concert halls in the world, is no more. It is to be subsumed into the ever-dwindling national arts budget. So while cultural establishments might be able to keep their doors open now, thank you very much, they can forget getting new doors.

The announcement last week coincided with new culture secretary Sajid Javid’s first policy speech. He starts off by saying he wouldn’t dream of telling arts people how to programme, and then proceeds to do just that: they have to find a way of making working class people, like his Pakistani bus driver dad, feel welcome in witnessing the arts they as taxpayers have bought; they have to stop career access being exclusively for those with recourse to the ‘bank of mum and dad’, as he calls it, by offering pocket money pay or no wages at all; they have to find a way of including black and minority ethnic people as both participators and partakers; the Arts Council must do more to even out the funding disproportion between London and the regions (suggesting that he either hasn’t read or doesn’t believe what the Arts Council has said).

But all these things are precisely what the subsidy is for. Arts managers are only too painfully aware of the shortcomings, and actually have done much to eradicate them while the government has been cutting their funding. Pushing the lottery cherry into the cake itself is not an answer.

Javid’s has not been a policy speech; it has been political speech that says ‘I am a banker, risen by my bootstraps from humble origins where I had no cultural benefits, and I’m a member of a government that loves the working class’. The cynicism is a model of its kind.

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