new report out – does DCMS take with one hand then take more with the other?

Apparently England’s Arts council should urgently restore some balance to Arts funding according to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s report, published on Wednesday 5 November 2014.

I’ve just read the summary conclusions and it appears that ACE is still stuck between a rock (Londoncentricisim)  and a hard place (everywhere else). Much of it comes across as contradictory:

A redistribution of funds along the lines suggested by the authors of Rebalancing our

Cultural Capital would do much to redress the imbalance in funding to benefit

England as a whole. We believe this could be achieved in a timely fashion without

threatening London’s world status as a cultural centre. (Paragraph 67)

How can the funding be fairly distributed beyond London, without threatening London’s status? Isn’t that the point – that London already possesses that status and is unlikely to lose it, whilst the rest of the UK is comparatively, as always, the poor relative?

Having slashed public spending, and ACE budgets, to a point of almost no return, they now say:

We recommend that the Government emphasises to local authorities the advantages

associated with an appropriate level of engagement with cultural policy and

provision—including what funding opportunities ought to be developed.

How might that happen then? The Government refuse to make that compulsory, so realistically, will Local Gov. choose supporting culture over and above filling holes in roads or emptying bins? Of course not. The logic behind this stance is non-existant.

Instead, the onus is pushed onto the Arts Council:

The Arts Council should take a far more robust stance than it already does with local

authorities, such as Westminster, who show little inclination to support the arts.

There is little point in pumping public money into areas that do not particularly

want or need it, or do little themselves to support the arts. (Paragraph 80)

So DCMS demands that ACE has to do what they themselves won’t do. They continue to criticise ACE whilst asking for more from them. Little point in pumping money into areas that do not particularly want or need it? There’s a simple equation here: local authorities that have suffered deep cuts are in low employment, often rural, areas. It’s not about not wanting culture, it’s about not being able to AFFORD culture. London people can, as can tourists.

As long as our government continues to presume creativity is  a luxury that only wealthy people are entitled to, and refuses to recognise the positivity that engaging in the arts has on our society, all of use working in the arts will be in a stuck place too.

Culture is about quality of living, it’s about life itself. Not everything is a commodity.

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