Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) (arts 14)


1. The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on the funding of the arts and heritage. CPRE wants a beautiful, tranquil and diverse countryside that everyone can value and enjoy. We believe that the safeguarding of our rural historic environment is an essential part of achieving our aims as it ensures we maintain the character and uniqueness of our countryside. Sufficient funding needs to be available for ensuring this.

2. CPRE has a long history of working to support the historic environment through the planning system. We are the nation’s single largest participant in the planning system, where we have a key role as a proponent of third party rights and the wider public interest. Our network of county branches, regional and district groups, and CPRE volunteers have extensive experience of heritage protection and play an active role in local heritage protection issues, particularly those relating to rural communities and historic landscapes. A number of our branches have also been involved in heritage restoration schemes.

Summary of comments

3. Given the areas of work covered by CPRE, this response focuses solely on funding relating to heritage. As such, CPRE believes that:

· Heritage, particularly in rural settings, is an important aspect of England’s appeal to tourists, and to remain so, requires proper funding for maintenance and conservation. Cuts of rurally focused Government departments, such as the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, could impact on this.

· The increase in Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) money for heritage causes to 20 per cent is very positive, but we are concerned that this increase may be largely used up by increased bid costs from Places of Worship if their VAT exemption is not renewed.

· That philanthropic giving already contributes substantially to heritage, through the maintenance of many of our heritage assets in private ownership and this contribution should not be underestimated.

Response to inquiry questions

What impact will recent, and future, spending cuts from central and local Government have on the arts and heritage at a national and local level?

4. CPRE believes that our rural heritage (for example historic landscapes and views, field patterns, hedgerows, village settings and settlement patterns, and traditions such as dry stone walling and so on) is an often overlooked aspect of our heritage, yet it is fundamental to retaining the diverse and distinctive character of the English countryside. Data from Visit Britain, published in 2009, also shows that it is a huge tourism draw, with nearly 25% of foreign tourists visiting the countryside for a walk and more that half visiting castles, churches, monuments and historic houses, many of which are rurally located and are enhanced by the quality of surrounding, often historic, landscapes.

5. We are concerned that the cuts in public expenditure in sectors covering National Parks, nature conservation and the countryside (notably budget reductions at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the abolition of Regional Development Agencies) will severely affect the attractive farmed landscapes that contribute so distinctively to our rural heritage. We also feel that these cuts may put increased pressure on heritage funding bodies, through an increase of bids for projects which would previously have been covered by mainstream Government funding.

What level of public subsidy for the arts and heritage is necessary and sustainable:

· What impact recent changes to the distribution of National Lottery funds will have on arts and heritage organisations

6. CPRE is delighted with the return to 20 per cent of the heritage fund for the HLF. We are concerned however that the benefits this will bring to heritage funding may be severely affected by the increase of VAT, also to 20 per cent, which will have big implications for the cost of maintenance and repairs to heritage assets. In particular, we are concerned that the Government has not yet committed to renewing the VAT exemption scheme (Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme) when the current scheme expires in 2011, especially given that places of worship receive substantial amounts of HLF heritage grants. In response to a petition calling for a renewal of this scheme, the Government stated that:

‘under new proposals by the Government, the share of Lottery money going to each of the arts, heritage and sport good causes will increase to 20 per cent. The Heritage Lottery Fund is looking at how it will distribute the additional money it expects to receive as a result of the change in Lottery shares. It has said it will take account of the needs of places of worship in England, along with needs in other heritage sectors.’

7. With VAT increasing to 20 per cent, the 20 per cent increase in money to the HLF for heritage causes may be largely used up in covering the increased costs of bids, due to the lack of VAT exemptions, of projects associated with places of worship. If this is the case, the increase of HLF money dedicated to heritage would not deliver aid to an increased number of heritage projects as effectively as envisaged.

8. Given this, CPRE would like to see the VAT Exemption Scheme (Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme) renewed following its expiry in March 2011. We also feel that repairs and maintenance for listed buildings, if not all buildings, should be exempt from VAT to bring conservation works in line with the costs on new builds, which are VAT exempt. The current system acts as a disincentive to maintain heritage assets as the costs, once VAT is added, are high. This also puts increased strain on heritage funding bodies, as conservation and repair funding has to include the costs of VAT.

· Whether businesses and philanthropists can play a long term role in funding arts at a national and local level

9. CPRE recognises that businesses and philanthropists do, and should continue to, play an important role in funding heritage at a national and local level. Corporate and public giving should not, however, come to be relied on as economic downturns can severely affect levels of giving. For example, research by The Social Investment Consultancy in 2009, suggested that during the recent economic downturn, 60% of business leaders expected to reduce both charitable giving and the number of causes supported.

10. While levels of philanthropic giving in recessions appears not to be so severely affected, many giving for social reasons rather than personal financial reasons, the true impact is not likely to be fully appreciated until after the current recession1. While recognising the role that private giving can play in supporting heritage funding, it is important, therefore, that the Government does not come to rely on this income stream as future economic stability cannot be guaranteed. Heritage, once lost, cannot be replaced so it is essential that secure Government funding is in place to ensure its conservation and continuity.

11. In considering philanthropic giving, CPRE feels it is also important that the Government recognises that many heritage assets, listed buildings in particular, are in private hands and maintained by these owners. This private ownership and maintenance already constitutes a very important aspect of philanthropy in the heritage sector. While we recognise that large scale philanthropy (for example corporate sponsorship) could contribute to aspects of heritage funding, we ask that the Government consider the type of heritage that can benefit from such giving, given that small, privately owned heritage assets are unlikely to receive funding from this quarter. It is important therefore to ensure that there is alternative funding available, or in the very least VAT exemptions on maintenance costs, in place to aid the maintenance of privately held heritage assets.

August 2010

[1] Breeze, B. & G. G. Morgan. 2009. Philanthropy in a Recession: An analysis of UK media representations and implications for charitable giving Paper presented at NCVO/VSSN Researching the Voluntary Sector conference