Report claims London bias in culture funding

Seats in theatre The report authors said the gap between London and the rest of England had been growing for 30 years

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Funding for English museums, galleries and theatres is heavily skewed towards London, a report has said.

Central government spending on arts and culture in the capital amounted to £69 per resident in 2012-13, compared with £4.60 per person elsewhere in England.

The report was compiled by three arts figures who said they wanted to highlight a "bias" towards London.

Arts Council England chair Sir Peter Bazalgette admitted an imbalance existed, adding: "More should be done."

Sir Peter told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "There is an imbalance, there's no question. I've only been at the Arts Council for a few months.

"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."

The issue of a discrepancy between how much the capital receives in central government funding for the arts compared with the rest of England is not new.

It dates back to a white paper written in 1965 by the then Arts Minister Jennie Lee that identified the funding bias towards London as a problem.

In subsequent decades, the issue has been raised, and promised to be resolved, by a series of arts ministers, Arts Council executives and other interested parties. And yet the statistics show the situation has got more, not less, pronounced.

It is a difficult balance to strike. Nobody to whom I've spoken thinks that London shouldn't get more money per capita - it is after all the jewel in the country's cultural crown. It's just a matter of allocating the funds in a way that supports regional voices as well.

The report found that Arts Council England distributed £163m of taxpayers' money to cultural organisations in London in 2012-13 - or £20 per person in the capital.

Some 85% of the English population live outside London, where the £159m Arts Council grants equated to £3.60 per head.

Meanwhile, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport spent a further £401m on London-based national museums and galleries such as the British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum, equating to £49 per head in the capital.

National museums based outside London - such as the Walker and Tate galleries in Liverpool and the National Media Museum in Bradford - received £46m, or £1 per person outside the capital, the report said.

Responding to the research, broadcaster Melvyn Bragg 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."

The report's authors were David Powell, who specialises in cultural research; Peter Stark, who was made an OBE in 1990 for his work as director of Northern Arts and is now chair of Voluntary Arts; and Christopher Gordon, a lecturer and former chief executive of the English Regional Arts Boards.


  • £564m of government money went to galleries, museums and theatres in London in 2012-13
  • £205m went to arts organisations elsewhere in England
  • Arts Council England also distributed £317m of National Lottery money to the arts in England
  • £142m of that went to London, with £175m spent elsewhere in England
  • 8.2 million people live in London - 44.8 million live outside the capital

Source: Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital report

They said the gap between London and the rest of England had been growing "for at least 30 years".

London galleries, theatres and museums have also received a disproportionate amount of money from the National Lottery, they said.

Their figures do not include an estimated £440m annual spending on arts and culture by local councils across England.

Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have their own arts funding arrangements.

Separate figures have also recently highlighted a growing gap in sponsorship and donations for the arts between London and the rest of the country.

The report comes as Arts Council England prepares to decide how to fund venues after receiving a 5% cut from the government.

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said arts and culture in England were "in very good shape".

He said: "London, of course, is the nation's capital and the location for hundreds of national and local arts companies and cultural organisations.

"It is also a magnet for overseas visitors, many of whom visit the capital because of its outstanding cultural offer, boosting the national economy and helping growth. But we do need to be always vigilant to ensure that the distribution of public money is fair and transparent."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    It's not just culture funding, there is a London/SE England bias. The BBC are just as bad.

    If the storm the UK happened in Midlands/Yorkshire, it would got less coverage.

    87% of the UK's population live outside London.

    There is more to the UK north of Oxford.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    London is always treated preferentially compared to the rest of the UK. If you've ever visited you've probably noticed that it pretty much may as well be a separate autocratic city state - I mean look at the City of London Corporation, it's already started.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    I'm Welsh and have lived in London for 15 years. Unlike most Londoners I realise there is country outside well worth visiting. In Oz, US, Canada etc a 4 hour trip from any major city would seem like a short hop down the road and 90% of the UK pop is within a 4 hours drive. So yes please stop putting everything economic/cultural here and start utilising our entire compact country. It's a nonsense..

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    Dare i say it, if england had regional, devolved governments instead of just one in London, things would be a lot better. The germans do it, the scottish & welsh are basically moving towards it.

    He who dishes out the dessert tends to give himself the biggest portion. London is clinically obese, whilst elsewhere is malnourished.

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    @47, I agree. I moved to London. So London get's more funding, but it pays more, much more. I'll bet it is even subsidising non London funding.

    And of course 47 is lowest rated. What a surprise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    Anybody surprised?

    There is London and then there is the rest of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    As ever with the arts, it's a question of degree. But has the analysis factored in the touring productions that originate in London? If they make it to the rest of the UK then surely that has value.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    They needed to commission a report to figure that out?

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    @331.Stew Green

    As a Welsh person I would be more than happy to stick with England not a problem, but there are three conditions which are only fair.

    1. Wales must be on the Flag, their is no excuse.
    2. You will give Wales back control over it own natural recourses like all other parts of the UK enjoy.
    3. You will give Yanks a geography lesson, no more WALES England Crap...

    Thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    Words escape me....lets have some fairness please....most of the UK population live outside of London..However, those that make the decisions on funding allocation are clueless and complete imbeciles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    As a northerner I'm well aware of funding disparity in every aspect of government spending where the regions are concerned.

    But really? Some of the comments here are just plain thick. Please tell me where in the world their country's capital city doesn't receive the lyons share? It's the way of the world. Frankly you can keep it. Men prancing around in tights. Here in Leeds they'd be lynched.

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    This does not surprise me one bit. As a budding film producer with a film ready script, Director and cast attached I was advised by someone in the newly formed film council a few years back that the lions share of lottery and arts funding was to be given to London based companies first then whatever was left to the regions. Obscene and Regionally biaised. It will never change. Utter disgrace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    The story should not be about the imbalance in funding but the absolutely absurd amount of money which is being spent on arts. People are outraged that energy prices have risen about £100, the government has the issue as the hot topic and labour are spamming us with political broadcasts about it. Shouldn't we be more outraged that £69 of our tax money is spent on ballet and opera?

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    We, the Nation should sell the Nationally owned property in London for extortionate prices and relocate to new purpose built museums and galleries in other major towns and cities, improve relevant infrastructure with the surplus so tourists can access with ease.

    Thatcher sucked wealth from the North, we, the majority, should redress that.

    Your friend in the North

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    Re: 331. Stew Green - "Freedom for Britain from London !"

    The census tells us only the minority in London are British, thus it is a foreign land in it's own right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    London Bias...

    YES, in most things, that's partly why the economy got in such a bad state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    I'm afraid this is a result of a nation where 72% of all spend is decided by Westminster. For comparison, Germany and France have 25% and 32% decided by central government. According to Radio 4 anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    Freedom for Britain from London ! At Devolution : Scotland & Wales please stay with England; it's London we want to kick out. London is such a different culture. (Londoners aren't British anyway few of them have been here more than 200 years.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    @51. Dear Proper I mean Charlie Brown. Actually, that is the most pleasant thing I can say about you. That and please stay in your 'wonderful London' with its leafy suburbs (Barking, Dagenham), clean streets (that'll be The Mall then) and the worlds most decorated sewer system (London Underground). As far as money that gets sent 'up norf', what money is that then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    That "£69" or whatever it is, is a mere drop in the ocean in comparison to the benefits that the only "world class" city our islands can create, economically.
    Tourists are not, I'm afraid, going to give up a trip to London because the Nantwich Borough Council has a new play on at its workshop theatre...


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