London bore the brunt of cuts to Arts Council England’s open access ‘Grants for the Arts’ scheme, while an associated funding redistribution favoured the South East.
Artists in the South West failed to benefit from an Arts Council England (ACE) pledge to redistribute Lottery funding from London to England’s regions.
According to ACE’s published data, there was an 8% drop in the value of Grants for the Arts (G4A) funding in the area between 2014/15 and 2017/18 – a loss of £828k. The South West’s proportion of the national distribution of G4A funding was also down, from 13.6% to 13.5%, and it was the only area outside London to lose some of its share of the total.
The value of G4A funding in the North also fell, but only by £86k, and its share of all G4A funding rose slightly.
In contrast, the area that benefited most during this period was the South East, where the value of G4A funding rose by £525k – a 4% increase. The share of G4A funding to the South East also grew, from 17.2% to 19.4%.
The Midlands saw a £213k increase in its G4A in funding, and an increase in share of 1.4 percentage points.
Over the same period, the value of G4A awards in London fell by £5.5m. By the time the scheme closed in 2017/18, just under a quarter of this stream of project funding was distributed in the capital compared with 30% four years earlier.
The value of London’s loss almost matches the £5.6m contraction of the whole G4A programme at this time, from £74.8m to £69.2m.
The cuts to the capital’s funding were in response to a 2014 Select Committee inquiry that found “a clear imbalance in arts funding in favour of London… is unfair on tax payers and lottery players in other parts of the country, as well as limiting access to cultural opportunities and enjoyment across the country…”. At the time ACE said it was taking action to redress the balance, but the committee called for the pace of change to be “much faster than it has hitherto been”.
In 2015 ACE made a public commitment to increase the spend of lottery funds outside of the capital to 75% (from 70%) by 2018, including G4A.
ACE has never specified targets for its different areas or funding streams, though former ACE Chair Sir Peter Bazalgette told the Select Committee that the open application Grants for the Arts fund – one of few ACE programmes that was available to individual artists – would grow.
An ACE spokesperson explained to AP: “Grants for the Arts…was an open-access, rolling, funding programme so the awards granted were based on the applications we received. We regularly run advice sessions on our funding schemes to encourage applications, however the number and quality of applications received from any Arts Council area will fluctuate over time, and the grants awarded will reflect that.”
New funding stream
In 2018/19, the G4A scheme was superseded by National Lottery Project Grants (NLPG). £97.3m per year has been earmarked for these awards – a 41% increase on the £69.2m allocated to G4A.
But this fund is stretched much thinner than its predecessor. Now available to museums and libraries as well as artists and arts organisations, it includes £14m reserved for “nationally significant and national touring projects of over £100,000”. National Portfolio Organisations – previously ineligible for G4A funding – are also able to apply for certain activities.
2018/19 figures will be available shortly, but an ACE spokesperson told AP that by 11 March 2019, the combined total for G4A and NLPG awards in the South West Arts Council area was £11.1m. If the year-end figures are similar, and the £97.3m budget is spent, this suggests the South West’s share of Lottery project funding could fall from 13.5% to around £11.4%.