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 225.

    This review shouldn;t just look at the local resident population but also the catchment population as well. London as the capital is well connected to the rest of the country so more people can visit these facilites.+ it is good to have such a range in one place.

    If you want centres of excellence then other areas are always going to suffer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    Of course, the arts budget should reach the "regions", but people don't necessarily visit places JUST to see the museums and art galleries - you need good restaurants and cafes, pleasant places to stay, easy access etc. One of the best art trips I've had was recently to the magnificent Salts Mill gallery - I'd recommend it to anyone because the town it's in, Saltaire, is also very pleasant..

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    I live in glorious Lancashire but love London to bits. However it is getting impossible to fund trips to the city in order to get so some culture. This is a prime reason why funding needs to be more fairly distributed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    I appreciate that Londoners will see all this whinging as sour grapes; but just look at the facts, aside of the Arts:-

    Olympics - London; national footie stadium - London; major airports - London; city with 2 test matches - London; Millennium attraction - London; national press - London.

    Need I go on?

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    One of the biggest problems is that regional museums don't have many staff left behind the scenes, due to the Government's policy of slashing local authority budgets. The Arts Council's refusal to fund positions that it believes should be paid for by local authority doesn't help either.


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