The DCMS, Arts Council England and national arts organisations must all do more to support culture in the regions, a select committee has concluded. 

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MPs have called on Arts Council England (ACE) to invest more of its Grant in Aid funds outside of London.

A new report by the Culture Select Committee, which has been examining access to public arts money, says not enough is being done to rectify the regional imbalance in funding.

It also calls on Government to incentivise private and corporate giving to the arts, particularly in the regions, and for national cultural institutions to take on a bigger role supporting smaller organisations in the regions.

The report responds to dramatic falls in local authority support for the arts in some areas of the country, warning: “There is a danger that, contrary to the Government’s stated wish to make culture more accessible, it will become less so.”

Rebalancing Grant in Aid

ACE has committed to investing 75% of Lottery revenue outside the capital by 2018. The report welcomes this but says: “We remain concerned that 42% of Grant in Aid currently goes to London.”

The report concludes the committee’s Countries of Culture Inquiry, which followed on from a previous inquiry into the work of ACE that found an urgent need to rectify the regional funding imbalance. In this report, MPs say there has been “some, limited progress”, but more needs to be done. 

“We are concerned that the largest sums of money that ACE allocates, through Grant in Aid, are still disproportionately given to London-based National Portfolio Organisations and Major Partner Museums, even if many of those NPOs and MPMs tour the country or collaborate with regional and local cultural organisations.”

New requirements for funding

It says that “national outreach should be a requirement of national funding” and that those in receipt of government funding should support local cultural organisations through mentorship and skills sharing, particularly in revenue generation.

“Arts Council England consider outreach plans as part of their assessment already, but we believe this should go one step further,” it says.

It suggests that recipients of central government funding should be made accountable for their national outreach work, “by setting out percentage of target audience, percentage of time spent touring, percentage of exhibitions lent to other organisations”. The DCMS, it says, should be given “strategic oversight of such collaboration and partnerships to ensure that culture is accessible throughout the country”.

Government initiatives

A number of recommendations are targeted at Government, including incentivising “greater corporate sponsorship and regionally-based philanthropy”. It says this should be done through tax incentives “where appropriate”.

Director of the Association of British Orchestras Mark Pemberton, who gave evidence to the committee, welcomed the MPs’ call. “With individual giving seeing significant growth in recent years,” he said, “it’s now time for DCMS and the Treasury to implement with speed a tax incentive for corporate support. There are international examples such as Brazil and Belgium that we can usefully learn from, and we look forward to making progress on this in 2017.”

The report also calls on the DCMS to conduct an impact assessment of the various tax incentives, business rates, VAT regulation and Gift Aid rules on cultural organisations. It suggests expanding existing tax breaks, simplifying Gift Aid, and publicising the estate duty relief schemes.

“Past efforts to encourage greater corporate giving to the arts have not yet really delivered and particularly not in the regions,” said John Kampfner, Chief Executive of the Creative Industries Federation.

“The sector has to develop new funding models and diversify funding streams but the government could play its part in persuading businesses of the value of arts sponsorship.”

A photo of Frances Richens