UK local authorities spend less on culture than ‘almost any country in Europe’ 8 May 2019

Data produced by the Budapest Observatory measuring cultural spend since 2004 shows that the UK spends one of the lowest proportions of GDP on culture compared with 29 other European countries and is bottom in terms of local authority spend.  Figures show:  

  • The UK spent around 0.3% of GDP on culture in 2014 – 17 – with only Cyprus, Ireland, Portugal and Greece investing less.
  • In the last few years 11 post-communist EU countries have invested at a significantly faster rate than the West with Hungary, Latvia and Estonia at or exceeding 1%. The report suggests that this is partly for historical reasons – culture is important for nation building, and partly because in a country with lower GDP the state has to invest more to achieve the same effects as in the most prosperous parts of Europe.
  • The UK’s local authority budget for culture is just over 1%, compared with over 6% in Latvia and over 4% in France, making the UK’s spend the lowest in Europe. In most countries, local authority funding has grown faster than central spend, but in the UK it has fallen from €4bn in 2004 to just under €2.8bn in 2017.
  • The report also expresses concern about Greece, also towards the bottom for investment on most metrics, asking “how can all those Greek museums, excavation sites, theatres and festivals etc. be run with a constant 0.1% of GDP?”

  The report acknowledges that an ‘efficient’ spend can be as important as the actual amounts invested and that ‘bureaucracy, protocol…prestige projects and other nonsense’ can sometimes mean that more is less. Arts Professional, Budapest Observatory