Countries of culture report published 6/1/2017

The House of Commons Culture Media and Sport Select Committee has published its conclusions following their inquiry into funding and support for the arts outside London. NMDC submitted evidence alongside major funding bodies, the Minister for Culture and national museums. The report affirmed that culture supports policy objectives around health, education and economic objectives but said that it is ‘unlikely that the current funding challenges will recede’. It therefore looks beyond reinstatement of local government funds to other solutions. The Committee supported NMDC's proposals to grant greater operational freedoms to local authority museums, including granting them their digital independence, and consider how services can be effectively delivered in partnership. It echoed NMDC's view that there is a "no one size fits all" business model, included examples from NMDC's submission, and also noted concerns about the erosion of specialist knowledge. A chapter of the report considers how cultural organisations work in partnership, including exploring the role of national institutions. The Committee also called for greater support from the Department for International Trade for cultural organisations and increased investment in cultural tourism.

Other conclusions and comments

  • Submissions emphasised the impact of local government cuts, which is the greatest area of reduced funding for culture. The report comments, “the biggest impact of local authority cuts to culture is likely to fall where the cultural offering is already weak with the result that those with most to gain from cultural investment will lose out.”
  • ACE’s Creative People and Places and new pilot Cultural Citizens schemes target areas where cultural participation is low. These were welcomed in the report, but it acknowledged that these could not replace lost local authority investment. It said that accessibility must be given even higher priority in cultural policy.
  • The report said that it recognised London as a ‘leading cultural asset’ and the geographically equitable distribution of HLF investment, but suggested a greater proportion arts investment could be spent outside London.

Additional proposals to vary income streams

  • Not all arts organisations see themselves as charities: DCMS should lead an awareness-raising campaign so that all organisations which could benefit from charitable status should obtain it.
  • The report found that while some regionally-based companies invested locally, such as Cranswick in Hull, these are relatively few in number. The National Theatre said it could not find regional sponsors for box office hits such as War Horse.  Government should seek ways to incentivise regionally based philanthropy, including with tax breaks.
  • DCMS should work with Treasury to look at the impact of tax incentives, business rates, VAT regulation and business rates on cultural organisations.
  • The report praised efforts by ACE and HLF to develop revenue generation and fundraising skills, and recommended that funding for NPOs and MPMs should be dependent on these sharing their skills with smaller organisations.
  • DCMS should generate case studies showing innovation in income generation.

Trusts and partnership working

  • Partnership was a recurring theme throughout the inquiry. The report said “culture is more likely to flourish, and be accessible to more people, where partnerships are strong” and called for more work with the Department for Education and Department for Communities and Local Government. It welcomed the Cultural Destinations programme, which brings together the cultural sector with VisitBritain and destination management organisations, but said that much more could be done.
  • The hub model may be useful in building local capacity and has worked well for Cornwall Museums Partnership and Manchester Museums Partnership in creating economies of scale for otherwise independent bodies. However other hub models have shown risks of reducing curatorial expertise in an individual location, reducing a museum’s ability to make the most of its collections.
  • The report recommended that national funding should be dependent on undertaking local partnership work with measurable benchmarks for success.

Skills

  • The report said the cultural sector is facing ‘serious skills challenges’ and the ‘loss of curatorial and development roles’. It praised schemes such as the Clore leadership programme, but said that smaller entities needed to access upskilling, through online learning and through a requirement for national institutions to partner smaller ones and share skills.

Parliament.uk (conclusions), Parliament.uk (whole report), NMDC submission, NMDC supplementary evidence