Written evidence submitted by Martin Thomas
1. What impact recent, and future, spending
cuts from central and local Government will have on the arts and
heritage at a national and local level
1.1 The Government's proposed cuts are likely
to have a disproportionately large impact on one of the unique
selling points (USP) of "UK plc"the cultural
sector (arts and heritage) and creative industries. These areas
have blossomed over the past 15 years. However it is definedwhether
performing arts, built and environmental heritage, film, media,
museums, galleries, libraries and archivesthe diversity
of what the United Kingdom's arts and heritage offer has contributed
enormously to the national economy and to the social, cultural
and educational life of the UK's citizens. The value of arts and
heritage to communities is very considerable. At the height of
the credit crunch and recession, heritage organisations (including
those independent of Government) noted increased interest from
the public. Statistics on this are available from the National
Trust and English Heritage, amongst others.
1.2 This nation's arts and heritage have
thrived throughout the recession. The arts and heritage have often
been stabilised by public investment and have used that funding
as a platform on which to develop and encourage commercial investment,
philanthropic support and new enterprise. By reducing that public
support, one of the undisputed successes of this country is jeopardised
and the chances for increasing philanthropic giving reduced.
1.3 There is a desire in many people to
seek out positive experiences through heritage and the arts when
times are tough. This is nothing new, and evidence can be produced
to support this. A Government Department that "squeezes"
the positive experiences out of people's lives, by cutting budgets
in order "to be seen" to be fiscally responsible by
HM Treasury and Number 10, loses the public support when that
Government needs it most.
2. What arts organisations can do to work
more closely together in order to reduce duplication of effort
and to make economies of scale
2.1 More collaboration is always to be welcomed.
Partnerships across the cultural sector should be encouraged and
there has been a lot of good practice in this area already, especially
working with children and young people (eg Partnerships between
museums, arts organisations, heritage, film and new media with
the Cultural Hubs programme in Bournemouth & Poole, Durham
and Telford; DAISI/Devon Arts In Schools Initiative working in
rural communities across Devon; Arts and Health South West working
across south west England).
2.2 What organisations often want are seed
funding, or coordinating support, to get the partnership moving
and then recognition from national Government that this collaborative
approach is going to be supported and recognised. What discourages
partnership work is when Government departments seem to issue
conflicting guidance, and when one Department seems to use "partnership"
as an opportunity to remove support by piggybacking on another
3. What level of public subsidy for the arts
and heritage is necessary and sustainable
3.1 This is a very complex and involved
question. It will probably be answered best by organisations and
individuals with a record of accomplishment of funding and investing
in the arts and heritage. Government is right to set an aim of
smart economics in the cultural sector. Making economies in some
areas in order to ease pressure on budgets is understandable.
However, Government should also trust those professionals who
have worked to ensure best value for the public purse in the arts
and heritage sector.
3.2 A minor observation, but one I feel
is important. If Government and Parliament see funding of the
arts and heritage as a "subsidy", then that is a negative,
with all the connotations of "preventing decline" and
"protectionism" associated with definitions of the term
subsidy. The arts and heritage, for reasons stated elsewhere,
add immensely to the quality of life and the national economy,
so this funding should be regarded as an investment, or a national
contribution to maintaining "the USP of UK plc".
4. Whether the current system, and structure,
of funding distribution is the right one
4.1 The current system is not perfect. There
can always be improvements. From my experience, non-departmental
public bodies (NDPBs) or quasi non-governmental organisations
(quangos)whichever you preferhave been cutting hard
and streamlining. Many (like the Arts Council and MLA) have been
making year-on-year savings to meet the commitments to save money
as per the Gershon and Lyons reviews. Government should reflect
on the impacts of these cuts before further cuts. Otherwise, Government
could find itself having a cumulative range of cuts (from the
last Labour administration and this Coalition one) which result
in such a reduced infrastructure that taxpayers' money has to
be wasted on re-recruiting a few months later.
5. What impact recent changes to the distribution
of National Lottery funds will have on arts and heritage organisations
5.1 Government's proposals to redistribute
Lottery funding (essentially shifting some from Big Lottery to
the Arts Council, Heritage Lottery Fund and Sport Council/s) is
welcome as it re-sets the imbalance; and is a return to the spirit
of the Lottery established under John Major's administration.
However, what must be borne in mind is that, for example, Arts
Council England hasin meeting its obligations to the previous
Governmentcut their staffing and resources drastically.
This means that decision making on grants is harder (ie fewer
people to do this). In addition, for money to be well used it
needs good, balanced, analytical consideration of grant requests.
Just allocating "a bit more to arts and heritage" is
not an end in itself. Ensure the distributors of the funding are
at least able to make decisions in the regions/local areas and
that this process is not a centralised decision made with no knowledge
of the applicant, the public/audience that may benefit or the
6. Whether the policy guidelines for National
Lottery funding need to be reviewed
6.1 This question is related to 4 and 5,
in that a fully considered range of options should be explored.
Returning to the basic guiding principles of the Lottery is one
option, but if that is done, then some system of protecting those
arts/heritage/sports good causes needs to be enshrined. Otherwise,
`bad habits' come back and the Lottery coffers get raided when
another big bill comes up.
6.2 Political independence of the Lottery
distributors must be maintained and this can be checked and balanced
by ensuring the partner agencies or advisory bodies have very
clear terms of reference that are recognised by Parliament.
7. The impact of recent changes to DCMS arms-length
bodiesin particular the abolition of the UK Film Council
and Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA)
7.1 Other people have spoken very articulately
about the abolition of the UKFC. The evidence that Government
has presented about cutting it was based largely on "executive
pay", which seems a weak basis on which to remove an organisation
that has demonstrated positive impact for the national film industry.
If that was the perceived issue with UKFC then it should have
been raised via the Board of Trustees and addressed as an issue
of governance of the UKFC, not a total abolition.
7.2 The loss of MLA raises many questions
about how and whether this will really save any money. The core
functions of MLA, relating to national standards for museums (through
Museums Accreditation); the portable antiquities scheme, security
advice; Government Indemnity scheme etc, will all still need to
be administered. Does DCMS propose to manage these directly, in
London, recruiting and training more Civil Service personnel to
do this job?
7.3 The greatest single success of MLA,
the delivery of the Renaissance Museums programme in local museums
across England is now put in jeopardy by the action of the Coalition
Government. This public investment has seen museums and galleries
actively taking the lead in partnerships in local areas, meeting
strict performance indicators and contributing to a wide range
of non-heritage services (helping Local councils meet obligations
school education, positive activities for people with disabilities,
and health and well-being agendas and the Local Authority Children's
8. Whether businesses and philanthropists
can play a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local
9. Whether there need to be more Government
incentives to encourage private donations
8-9.1 For philanthropy to work, as advocated
by the DCMS Secretary of State, there has to be a better understanding
within Government (and the UK Civil Service) of what this means.
Comparisons keep being made with the "American system",
but this is too simplistic and ignores the American heritage of
patronage that the UK does not have. There are opportunities to
learn from other nations how they fund culture, but this should
be more imaginative than just looking at the US system, which
for all its merits does take a metropolitan/urban view.
8-9.2 To compare funding of the UK's arts
and heritage sector with the US, is like comparing the taste of
a mango with a kipper. The UK and US have very different economies
of scale, legal systems, tax incentives, demographics and administrative
processes. Has the UK Coalition Government considered looking
at how the UK arts and heritage sector has been viewed by other
nations (ie Singapore) as a model of good practice; or how the
UK can learn not only from the USA, but also from Norway (community
arts), Germany (comparing the different States' funding provision),
Spain (the cultural infrastructure of the autonomous regions).
These nations are closer in size, scale and cultural identity
to the UK. We may not share a common language, but our geographical
size, populations, educational aspirations and political systems
are closer than that of the USA and UK.
In closing, I would ask the Committee to look
closely at the accumulated benefits that the arts and heritage
bring to the nation. Many aspects of everyday life improved because
of the arts and heritage. More tangibly, the economic impacts
of heritage and the arts are well documented. At a time of cuts,
culture is perceived as the "soft underbelly" of public
expenditure, the excess that can be trimmed. I would implore the
Committee to consider the case that what makes the public feel
more positive and constructive in a time of austerity, is culture.
Maintaining funding for the arts and heritage will actually enable
the UK to navigate tough fiscal times. Cutting will damage confidence
in the Government, public morale and reduce economic output in
the creative industries.
Thank you for receiving and considering this
written submission to the Committee. I am grateful to have the
opportunity to contribute to this.