Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Fifth Report

Conclusions and recommendations

1.  If a theatre, renovated and refurbished with the public's money to be fit for purpose for future generations, changes use then it should be axiomatic that the full amount of lottery money absorbed by that building is repaid. The conditions of this repayment must be set down in black and white so there can be no repetition of the Wembley Stadium 'handshake' debacle. In addition, we believe that if such a theatre is sold within 10 years of lottery-funded renovation then the Lottery should benefit to some degree. (Paragraph 25)

2.  The Office of Fair Trading recommended that theatre advertising be required: to include the face value of the ticket; to indicate that additional fees may apply and could vary depending upon the sales channel and ticket seller used; and to indicate where tickets could be purchased at face value. We agree. A complaisant theatre-going public has for too long accepted this blatant rip-off and it is time it was brought to an end. (Paragraph 29)

3.  We recommend that the DCMS and the lottery distributors should give consideration to how the balance of benefits in that relationship might be shifted in favour of subsidised theatre as part of a deal with commercial operators over capital investment in infrastructure; extracting more 'bang' for public 'bucks' from commercial transfers of productions that originate in the subsidised theatre sector (with all the risks shouldered therein). (Paragraph 31)

4.  West End commercial theatre has made a case for public investment in its infrastructure but it has failed to back this up so far with a convincing commitment to accountability during the process nor a return for the wider public. This is not a good start. In addition, we believe that the 'West End' initiative needs to embrace the Old Vic (if another solution is not found for its maintenance issues) as this theatre fits the profile set out in the Act Now! report: namely that it is theatrically significant, it is not subsidised, it is in urgent need and it is a national treasure. (Paragraph 33)

5.  We conclude that West End commercial theatre's most compelling arguments rest on grounds of heritage and economic impact. Therefore we believe that the Heritage Lottery Fund, the GLA and London Development Agency should be the major partners in responding to the West End's call. The Arts Council England should take a back seat, contributing to the structure of the funding package but reserving the bulk of its pressured capital resources for non-commercial theatre which itself has very pressing needs (Paragraph 34)

6.  We note the Arts Minister's valedictory remarks on this topic: "This is probably a bit demob happy, but I personally would be disappointed if the efforts we had put in to the West End Theatre forum came to naught, but I just do not know - the Lottery distributors have a lot of pressures on their resource." (Paragraph 35)

7.  We believe that new public amenities, such as libraries and theatres, are legitimate planning gains to which local authorities should aspire via Section 106 agreements. However, there was little evidence of this route having been used to develop new theatre buildings with the exception of Sir Peter Hall's new Rose of Kingston Theatre. We recommend that the DCMS, in cooperation with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, make a report to Parliament on the use made of this legislative provision to secure arts and other cultural amenities to improve people's quality of life. (Paragraph 37)

8.  We recommend that the Government announces the scale, shape and share of the distribution of National Lottery funds for good causes as soon as possible and certainly by the time a response to this Report is due. We recommend that the arts remain one of the good causes—believing there to be strong public support for this—and that the Arts Council remains a distributor of a significant size. (Paragraph 43)

9.  The evidence presented to us suggests that now is the time for the Arts Council to re-focus its lottery capital programme towards the provision of assistance to publicly-funded, as well as not-for-profit, theatres for the maintenance of their buildings; consolidation is needed not further expansion. (Paragraph 50)

10.  It is ten years since re-development of the RST was first conceived. It is high time the RSC took action before its lottery award is completely eroded by inflation. We trust that the Arts Council England will take all necessary steps to assay the robustness of the RSC's latest plan before handing over any funds. We shall follow progress with interest. (Paragraph 54)

11.  We believe that the overall case for substantial public investment in the theatre in this country is over-whelming and we note the evidence presented of high levels of support for this investment amongst the public. (Paragraph 65)

12.  We believe that the arms length principle of distributing grant-in-aid and Lottery resources to the arts is important as well as practical. Fortunately we see no prospect of the Government seeking to replicate the steps taken by the National Assembly for Wales. However, this does not absolve the Arts Council England from a duty to account for its policies and performance; and its responsibility to put forward a robust case when challenged constructively from whatever quarter. (Paragraph 67)

13.  We share the concern expressed by the Independent Theatre Council, and by some of the theatres who gave evidence to us, that the Arts Council seems to be entrenched in its existing funding programme. We believe that a more dynamic approach is needed rewarding new entrants, and existing theatre groups, who have innovative ideas while being far more critical of those recipients of funding who have failed to develop their original potential or to fulfil their commitments (Paragraph 75)

14.  We were concerned at evidence that government at national, regional or local level, had not done any serious work to assess the real economic impacts of such investments. Funding is a major problem for theatres, and other arts bodies, and the economic regeneration argument is a very strong one in securing increased investment in the arts as the examples given above show. However, very little work seems to have been accomplished to product the hard facts necessary to reinforce this case. We note some moves towards recognition of the unique contribution of arts investment to revitalising urban communities as part of what DCMS calls its "culture and regeneration agenda". We recommend that the Department commissions a study of progress with this agenda so far and reports to Parliament on the potential for further benefits from a far more strategic approach to investing in the arts infrastructure as a catalyst for urban regeneration. (Paragraph 82)

15.  it is a scandal that one of the nation's key cultural activities is in such a state that, at least in part, it relies on professional performers and technicians to pay such a high price by earning such low wages. It is a tribute to the power of theatre that so many of them will do so, but we believe that drama colleges and theatre companies should make a concerted effort to improve financial support and advice for actors and backstage staff alike. (Paragraph 86)

16.  We believe that, as in sport, consideration should be given to the public policy gains that can be demonstrated as a result of participation in drama and a strategic approach to the funding of grassroots, or community, theatre should be developed. This should take place as a partnership between the sector, the Arts Council England, regional theatres, local government and schools. As a first step, proposals for a National Drama Association—with public funding—to bring the amateur sector together should be properly formulated and given serious consideration. A further initiative might be the development of local arts forums, including theatre and amateur theatre, aimed at maximising the use of local arts expertise and facilities for the benefit of the community. (Paragraph 91)

17.  Mr Hytner said: "We did not expect or feel we deserved a huge raise. I think we were disappointed that a commitment was not made to keep us up with inflation … cash standstill is effectively a cut. And a cut seems to us to be a mistake." We agree. (Paragraph 103)

18.  Given the announcement of an overall funding cut in real terms, the Government and the Arts Council need a far more effective communications strategy if avoidable anxieties are not to be raised within particular art forms. (Paragraph 105)

19.  Sustainable efficiency savings by public bodies must always be sought with vigour. However, it seems invidious for the DCMS to press the Arts Council for such savings on the grounds that the money saved can then to go direct to the arts; only to reduce the Council's grant-in-aid by roughly the same amount a couple of years later. No matter what the allocation to specific art forms, the Arts Council's efforts to increase efficiency have been rewarded with an equivalent real terms cut in baseline funding. (Paragraph 110)

20.  Theatre is important to the economic life of the country and generates a significant return for the Exchequer as well as showcasing the UK to the world. The commercial theatre sector often rests on work that originates, is developed, tested and proven within the subsidised sector. (Paragraph 112)

21.  The investment made since 2002—and the resulting virtuous circle of better productions and bigger audiences—needs to be protected and built upon. A policy of stop-go-stop, eschewed by the Treasury in macro-economic terms of 'boom and bust', is not a prudent approach to the long term investment in the arts to which the Government claims to be committed. (Paragraph 113)

22.  The Government needs to re-evaluate its allocation of resources to the arts, taking a long term view, to ensure that real terms cuts are avoided where no compelling arguments or evidence are presented for their necessity. In our view no such arguments have been made. The Government should re-consider and find the £34 million needed to keep the Arts Council's funding in line with inflation over the period of the 2004 spending settlement. (Paragraph 114)

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