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AD:uk Submission to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on the work of Arts Council England

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has opened an inquiry into the work of Arts Council England and its regional funding policies. It is seeking views on whether the geographical distribution of arts funding is fair, and whether there is any justification for the current weighting of this towards London. The inquiry will also examine the scope, scale and remit of ACE, and will be examining the economic and artistic criteria that underpin funding decisions.

Arts Development UK believes that Arts Council has achieved a great deal for the arts, artists and communities of England and that the inquiry provides a welcome opportunity to re-focus the resources available for public support of the arts. Below is the executive summary of our response. You can read our full response here

  • There is a funding imbalance, not simply between London and the regions, but between urban and rural, metropolitan centres and suburbs. It will be more constructive to discuss the implications of this imbalance and whether and how it needs addressing, rather than debating the statistical detail
  • There is a rapid decline in local authority funding for the arts which is exacerbating the funding imbalance, and is having a particularly strong impact on support for the local, community and voluntary arts sectors
  • Historic funding decisions have an disproportionate influence on the distribution of current resources, and although turning this round will be complex and require a significant time scale, it is essential to actively manage this situation rather than simply let it continue
  • A responsive approach to funding, laudable in principle, over time is compromised by the development of successful clusters of networked individuals and organisations, disadvantages applicants from outside those clusters, and limits the use of resources to address identified need
  • Risk management applied without reference to need or geographic differentials again disadvantages areas without established arts organisations with a track record of public funding
  • Successful arts clusters are an essential part of the growth of a strong arts ecology, and successful organisations within those clusters should be encouraged to generate more of their own income
  • There needs to be more robust knowledge of the whole arts ecology, beyond directly funded organisations
  • Data analysis should play a greater role in the development of policy, in particular we are concerned by the apparent lack of correlation between ACE investment and levels of arts engagement
  • Finally, we would like to see a clearer relationship between strategic goals, developed in relation to a robust knowledge base, and funding priorities