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Culture Secretary says that while she has concerns about the state of local authority finances, tax reliefs introduced by government have allowed cultural organisations to 'maximise their economic potential'.

Lucy Frazer appearing before the Culture Select Committee
Frazer said she is proud that theatre, orchestra, museum and gallery tax reliefs have been made permanent

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer was unable to name a single arts and culture organisation struggling to remain open due to financial problems during a grilling by MPs.

Appearing before the Culture Select Committee yesterday (22 May), just hours before Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a general election, Frazer was quizzed on the extent of financial pressures facing the arts and culture sector, but could not give any examples of organisations in serious difficulty.

Asked by committee Chair Caroline Dinenage about how worried she is about the state of current of local government finances in terms of its impact on culture and heritage services across local areas, Frazer responded by highlighting financial support provided by government.


"We have had a pot of culture and heritage money in the Levelling Up Fund and that has been very well used," she said.

"I had a meeting with [Levelling Up Secretary] Michael Gove. I'm obviously concerned across the board about the funding for local authorities and that's why I was very pleased when [he] announced an extra £600m [for local authorities].

"But we also have separate pots that support the arts, heritage and culture as well."

Closure risks

Dinenage went on to ask Frazer whether she was aware of any heritage assests, museums or cultural organisations previously in receipt of cultural recovery funding that are now at risk of closure, selling off items, or reducing their opening hours as a result of the financial pressures they are facing.

"The department liaises very closely with all the organisations that we fund or when issues are raised. I know that the Arts Council in particular would work with those organisations," Frazer said.

Pushed on her answer by Dinenage, Frazer, who was appearing before the committee for the second time in her tenure, said: "I'm sure that there are some."

Dinenage then put the question to Susannah Storey, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, who was appearing alongside Frazer.

"I haven't got any specific names but, as the Secretary of State says, we are very close across a whole range of these areas and obviously with local authoritiues having different pressures we have been liaising with [Arts Council England] across museums, libraries and heritage," Storey replied.

Frazer's comments come as cultural organisations nationwide continue to face a challenging economic climate.

At least 14 former National Portfolio Organisations have either closed or announced plans to close since failing to secure core Arts Council England funding for the 2023-26 period.

Others including Northern Ballet, English National Opera, and the Crafts Council have made significant cutbacks in order to continue operating, while Hampshire Cultural Trust said that four of its museums and an arts centre could be forced to shut their doors within 12 months. And a significant proportion of UK museums have previously said they were planning to reduce their opening hours in the face of rising costs.

'Maximising economic potential'

But Frazer said that during her year as Culture Secretary she feels cultural organisations have been allowed to "maximise their economic potential". 

"I set out early on after my appointment three key areas that I wanted to work on: to ensure that we maximise the potential of all the amazing industries that fall within my brief - their financial and economic potential; maximise the potential of opportunities for young people; and stand up for press freedom," she said.

"I've had the opportunity to do something on all of those over the last year, particularly in relation maximising the potential of the industries. 

"I'm very proud of continuing the work of Conservative governments over the course of the last 10 years, with the support we have given to the creative industries - year on year every year since 2012 we have given tax reliefs to the creative industries. That's one of the many reasons they are world leading.

"I'm very proud to have played a role in ensuring that, in both budgets where I have been Secretary of State, the creative industries have got further tax reliefs. 

"Making those theatre, orchestra, museum and gallery tax reliefs permanent - or the extra studio reliefs permanent, or the independent film or visual effects reliefs - all those are making sure that our creative industries are world-leading."