The Culture, Media and Sport select committee has warned that budget cuts are making culture less accessible, as part of its latest report on funding and support for the arts outside London, published today (15th December). It has called for prioritisation of funding to the areas where it will have the most impact, while expressing concern Arts Council England's largest sums of money were "still disproportionately" going to London-based organisations.
Following a 20% reduction in spending by local authorities in England between 2010 and 2015, and further cuts it says are "expected through to 2020", the committee said the biggest impact of local authority cuts to culture were likely to fall where the cultural offering is already weak. The result, it said, is that, "those with the most to gain from cultural investment will lose out".
While welcoming funding programmes such as the ACE programme Creative People and Places programme, and the the Cultural Citizens programme and pilot, it said this funding is "limited and cannot come close to, nor is it designed to, replace funding by local authorities".
It stressed: "there is a danger that, contrary to the Government’s stated wish to make culture more accessible, it will become less so".
"We will follow the outcomes of the Cultural Citizens pilot scheme with interest but we strongly reinforce the need for cultural policy, especially in current circumstances, to focus on accessibility of culture and support for the cultural infrastructure, and for this to be given a higher priority in terms of the funding to match this ambition," it said.
Reporting "varied responses" locally, the committee further warned there remains a risk local authorities will only have resources to cover statutory services and will consequently reduce funding for culture. "We recognise that it is difficult for local authorities to sustain expenditure on cultural objectives at present. However, some have prioritised it and have shown considerable leadership and initiative in this regard," the report added.
Calling into question ACE's London bias, it said: "We recognise London as a leading cultural asset, but would still like to see a better regional balance, particularly with regard to ACE Grant in Aid expenditure. We believe that cultural organisations in London have more opportunities to increase revenue through alternative streams than organisations in other parts of the country, through sponsorship and philanthropy for example."
The report also recommended publicising culture projects more.
The committee received over 100 submissions to its inquiry from arts organisations across the country, and visited Glasgow, Staffordshire and Buxton.