Spending Review includes new Levelling Up fund 4 Dec 2020

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced various measures in support of museums and culture as part of the latest Spending Review, against a backdrop where the UK economy is expected to shrink by 11.3%. These include:  

  • A £4.8bn ‘Levelling Up’ fund, open for bids from any local area and available for museum projects, although the detail is still to emerge. £600m will be available in 2021 – 22. In his speech, Sunak said “projects must have real impact… they must be delivered within this parliament and they must command local support, including from their member of parliament. This is about funding the infrastructure of everyday life: a new bypass, upgraded railway stations, less traffic, more libraries, museums, and galleries; better high streets and town centres.”.
  • Museums will receive a ‘flat- cash’ settlement, with the same funding for 2021 – 22 as for the current year. In addition, the Spending Review confirmed £60m in Capital funding ‘for essential maintenance of the nation’s much loved museums and galleries’.  
  • The DCMS settlement provides a 2.3% average real terms increase per year in core Resource funding from 2019 - 20 to 2021 - 22. (NB these figures do not include the emergency Covid-19 funds handled by DCMS this year). However it is unclear whether this additional support will extend beyond the coming financial year.
  • DCMS is also among the partners in a new £20m cross-departmental fund aimed at improving the social inclusion of people leaving prison.
  • There will be £150m for major events including the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, celebrations for the Queen’s Jubilee, and Festival 2022.
  • There is also a commitment to match EU funding with a new UK Shared Prosperity Fund for regional development after the transition period ends, at least matching £1.5bn structural funds.
  • Sunak also reiterated that £150m in funding, first announced in April, would be available through the Cultural Investment Fund and Museums Infrastructure Fund to support projects including British Library North.
  • There will be increased core spending power for local authorities, estimated at 4.5% in cash terms, plus an additional £3bn in Covid-19 support.

  NMDC said that it “welcomes Government’s commitment to addressing the capital funding needs of national and regional museums, and we look forward to museums making a major contribution to levelling up through the £4bn Levelling Up Fund.” Caroline Norbury, Director of the Creative Industries Federation said "we look forward to seeing the long-awaited details on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and urge that government consults with industry as it pilots these new approaches." The Local Government Association welcomed the Levelling Up Fund, but was concerned that the competitive bidding process would be a distraction to authorities already under pressure. It also welcomed the increase in council spending power, but noted that it is dependent on raising council tax by 5%, unaffordable for many households. Gov.uk, Guardian (overview),  Arts Professional, Creative Industries Federation, Art Newspaper, Times (paywall), The Stage (paywall), LGA