UK arts ‘levelling up’ plan—designed to redirect funding outdoors of London—blasted by metropolis’s mayor – Artwork Newspaper

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The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has criticised the UK government’s plan to divert arts funding from the capital as part of its “levelling up strategy” aimed at making the standard of living across different regions more equal. The Stage newspaper says that the government’s decision to divert investment from London will result in arts funding cuts for the capital of more than £70m (Arts Council England, the arm’s-length governmental body, had not verified this figure at the time of writing).

Khan says in a statement: “The government’s decision to significantly cut funding for London arts organisations will not only deliver a devastating blow to our city’s creative sector, but also damage the UK’s recovery from this pandemic… London has some of the most deprived communities in the country. Cutting arts funding for these communities is the opposite of levelling up.”

The UK Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, outlined the strategy in a number of tweets, saying: “Over the last few decades, an overwhelming amount of money has gone to organisations based in London, while other parts of the country haven’t received their fair share. That’s about to change with a £75m boost for the arts. Every single penny of that money will go to organisations outside of London.” 

Dorries says she argued for an extra £43.5m for the arts from the Treasury last year, adding that she has asked Arts Council England to “redistribute another £24m per year from their existing budget to these neglected places by 2025”, giving a total of £67.5m.

Dorries also tweeted that “Arts Council currently spends an average of £21 per head in London-dwarfing the £4.50 spent in the East Midlands.” She told the Yorkshire Post newspaper: “A town like Grimsby doesn’t have a single one [national portfolio organisation that benefits from Arts Council funding]. In fact, London has more such organisations than Yorkshire and the Humber, the North East and the North West combined. This is national funding, and it should benefit the entire nation. Instead, there’s been a huge historic imbalance.”

Arts Council England says that the extra £43.5m received from the government for the period 2022-25 will benefit culture outside of London and “where possible in a way that benefits the 109 Levelling Up for Culture Places”. These include Bolsover and Boston in the Midlands, Blackpool and Rochdale in the north of England and Peterborough in the south east.

Government funding recipients will meanwhile “be expected to have physical plaques in or on their buildings, and carry branding on their websites”. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) adds that the government will shortly announce the recipients of £48m of funding from the latest round of its Cultural Investment Fund. 

UPDATE (2 March): An Arts Council England spokesman says that “the additional amount invested outside London by 2025 will be £75.5m: this includes the £43.5m uplift to the Arts Council’s programme funding from DCMS, added to the £16m moved out of London in 2023/24, and a further £16m moved out of London in 2024/25”.