Entertainment & Arts

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

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 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.

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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