Public arts spending in London 15 times greater than outside capital, says report

Authors say excessive dominance is unhealthy and recommends reallocating lottery money to rebalance investment in England

Public spending on the arts is heavily skewed towards London, with people in the capital benefiting to the tune of £69 per head compared with £4.58 in other English regions, a new report suggests.

The fact that London's arts organisations and museums get a greater proportion of Arts Council England (ACE) and national lottery money than other parts of the country will not be a surprise. The size of the gap might be.

Peter Stark, Christopher Gordon and David Powell say their report, Rebalancing our Cultural Capital, is not anti-London. They say they celebrate that the city "must, and will, remain the nation's 'cultural capital'" and will continue to receive "its 'unfair' share of public funding".

But London arts organisations must repay that investment by developing approaches that irrigate rather than drain.

They write: "We view the excessive dominance of London in national cultural life as unhealthy for the capital itself and for the nation. We are saddened by the failure of stewardship by those in public service charged with the development and delivery of national cultural policy who have acquiesced in rather than addressed the growth of this imbalance."

The report proposes a new national investment programme of £600m – money made available by limiting London's access to lottery cash – that would, over the five years of a parliament, have responsibility for investment in new cultural production outside London.

The authors suggest one problem is that most decisions taken on public funding of the arts are taken by the "centre" – as in the government and Arts Council England. That accounts for 75% of funding decisions, whereas the equivalent is 13% in Germany, 15% in Spain, 36% in Spain and 51% in France.

The chairman of ACE, Sir Peter Bazalgette, acknowledged the imbalance. He told Radio 4's Today programme that they were working on correcting it. "I'm absolutely passionate about funding arts and culture in the regions … We need to do more.

"I would say judge us in two years' time. The trend is towards more spending in the regions and that's what we'll be doing."

Broadcaster Melvyn Bragg welcomed the report. He said: "This report is timely, urgent and damning of an increasingly centralised funding process.

"London is simply eating up the resources, which are limited, and therefore starving the rest of the country. This is wrong, short-sighted and undoubtedly unfair. I think it is time that the rest of England fought back."


Mark Brown, arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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