Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Havering Council, Culture and Leisure Services (arts 191)


· There are concerns that areas with less developed cultural infrastructure (such as Havering and other Outer London boroughs) may be disproportionately affected by cuts to arts and heritage.

· Local authorities will be increasingly under pressure to make cuts to discretionary services such as the arts and heritage.

· The funding landscape is difficult to navigate for small community/voluntary based organisations and more support could be provided to support the work of such groups.

· Private donations and sponsorship should be encouraged, but cannot replace core funding. Large high-profile institutions tend to benefit more easily from this type of funding than small grassroots organisations.

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


Spending cuts in this area are likely to reduce access to arts and heritage for local communities through the closure of venues, organisations and projects if decisions are not taken carefully. There is a danger that the impact of reductions in Arts Council funding could disproportionately affect areas like Havering, where there is already limited cultural infrastructure. Reductions which threaten the viability of organisations in highly populated suburban areas which have only a low level of social infrastructure will potentially leave communities in those areas without arts provision.


Regularly funded organisations are likely to have to reduce their programme of activities in response to the cuts, while grants available to local authorities and the voluntary sector will also be affected. For example, the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch (one of the last remaining professional producing theatres in the country) has been asked to model what a significant level of cuts would look like in their organisations. As this is the only RFO based in Havering, the effect of such cuts would have a greater impact than those of an organisation in an area densely populated by cultural organisations. These factors should be considered when implementing ‘across the board’ cuts to funding.


At a local level, the October Spending Review and broader cuts to local budgets will potentially have a disproportionate effect on arts and heritage as non-statutory services. Havering is fortunate to have the support of the administration for cultural projects, but they may not be held as a priority for other authorities across London and research should be commissioned to determine the impact of local government cuts on this vulnerable area. There is also concern that the continuing prevalence of some services being designated as statutory may force even very supportive local authorities to reduce funding for arts and heritage, despite their powerful social as well as cultural role, because of the authority’s inability to make the cuts that are required elsewhere in their services. In many ways, the very division of services into statutory and non-statutory is contrary to the Government’s ideals in relation to localism and local determination.


The current funding situation is also having a destabilising effect on capital funding and cuts at a local level are likely to result in the abandonment of building projects to make the savings. This is a concern for us at present, particularly in relation to heritage conservation and restoration projects. While revenue is clearly an important consideration when determining the impact of funding cuts, we must not forget the impact on capital which allows us to maintain our historic environment and to offer high quality facilities in which to hold arts activities.


In relation to capital, it is also essential that access to culture is integrated into all new housing developments as part of the basic infrastructure of an area. Current rules make it difficult for Community Infrastructure Levy funding to be diverted towards arts and heritage, as opposed to other elements of social infrastructure. We would be interested in hearing more about how a reformed CIL, could be used to support and maintain arts and heritage facilities in a local area and contribute to cultural regeneration.

What arts organisations can do to work more closely together in order to reduce duplication of effort and to make economies of scale


Shared marketing could be an area of focus for efficiency savings and maximising participation across borough boundaries.


As funders and providers begin to operate in an increasingly fragmented funding environment, information will become an ever-more important commodity. The role of government in coordinating and sharing information about the sector while promoting innovation and best practice will be vital if we are to avoid duplication and to increase efficiency.

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


At a local level, arts and heritage are an essential part of the fabric of the community in Havering for residents and visitors alike. The development of the borough’s as a cultural centre is vital to the local economy and to quality of life for local residents. Public subsidy is an investment in the sustainability and quality of the local area. As previous DCMS reports have highlighted, investment in the arts is also crucial in addressing social cohesion and a host of other instrumental benefits such as reducing crime, improving educational attainment, supporting health and wellbeing for older people and increasing confidence and self-esteem. Without existing levels of public subsidy, provision in these areas would be dramatically reduced.


In terms of sustainability, the emphasis of public funding should be on increasing the capacity of community arts and heritage organisations and on delivering instrumental targets such as those relating to health and education through the medium of culture. Public subsidy also has an important role in generating further internal investment and in establishing a thriving environment in which creative industries can flourish.

Whether the current system, and structure, of funding distribution is the right one


The Arts Council’s regularly funded organisations should be monitored more closely to ensure that they are committed to a local community approach and to working in partnership with other local organisations. In the past there have been examples of RFOs which are not strategically aligned with local authorities and do not distribute their work evenly across the region, despite receiving funding for activities in these areas. The Heritage Lottery Fund offers a structured approach for heritage organisations to seek funding and we are supportive of the recent initiative to increase applications from areas which have received less funding over the years. In both cases, funding tends to be easier to access for well-equipped professional organisations while small voluntary organisations are intimidated by the vigorous application process. The phasing out of the Awards for All grant stream for small applications up to £10,000 in heritage and the arts (which have now been transferred to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Arts Council respectively) has complicated the process for this type of group.


Again, despite work to re-distribute lottery funding more evenly, there is still a broader geographic bias that tends to focus funding opportunities on areas where there is already a significant cultural infrastructure in place, rather than building it in less developed areas (particularly in London, where funding clusters in the centre at the expense of sub-urban boroughs).


There appears to be a policy disconnect between the aims of the ‘Big Society’ and the perceived intention of strengthening funding packages for the large national RFOs, which is likely to reduce flexibility in the funding options available for smaller community groups. We would welcome the opportunity to hear more about how the Big Society model will be implemented to maximise opportunities for engagement with the arts and culture. With the myriad of small cultural organisations operating in the capital, the arts and culture should represent a valuable test case for the delivery of decentralisation, but there is a concern that this will not be reflected in the funding arrangements. We would be very interested to hear, for example, how funding streams will be re-configured to increase opportunities for small organisations such as the new Havering Museum (operated by a local community charity) to access funding to support their work. With only two Heritage Lottery funded professional posts, they rely heavily on volunteers and generate a great deal of activity in the local area at very little cost. In this sense, they are a good example of the Big Society policy in action, but opportunities to apply for the all-important funding to continue the work of the professional staff beyond the current short term funding arrangements are few. We would be interested to know how the Government’s proposals to integrate arts and heritage into the decentralisation agenda will address this type of situation.


More broadly, we would like to see arts and heritage integrated coherently into the current proposals relating to education and the re-organisation of the NHS, particularly in terms of public health. As research has demonstrated clearly in recent years, participation in cultural activities can have a profound impact on health and education outcomes for all age groups. It would be helpful to see support for the commissioning agenda in relation to arts/heritage and health and education form part of the overall funding policy recommendations.

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


We are supportive of the intention to increase the amount of Lottery funding going to the original ‘good causes’, and the subsequent increase in funding for the arts and heritage. We have some concern about the future of the Big Lottery Fund, which is a useful source of funding in relation to parks and open spaces and other areas of work that do not naturally fall under the remit of arts and heritage, such as children’s play. We welcome the government’s intention to make future applications more accessible to the community and voluntary sector; however, the local authority plays a key role in building the capacity of community groups and would want the opportunity for local publicly funded organisations to apply for funding in this area to remain open.

Whether the policy guidelines for National Lottery funding need to be reviewed


At present it is difficult for small community organisations to access arts Lottery money due to the inflexibility of the funding streams. Former smaller scale schemes, such as Arts 4 Everyone were more easily accessible for smaller voluntary sector groups. The integration of the arts and heritage streams of Awards for All into the main lottery funding programmes as been detrimental to small local organisations accessing the funding as they find the system harder to navigate; knowing which agency to approach can be difficult and intimidating for community and voluntary groups.

The impact of recent changes to DCMS arm’s-length bodies - in particular the abolition of the UK Film Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council


We have received considerable support and advice from MLA London in the course of establishing a new voluntary sector operated local history museum in the borough, so were dismayed to hear this organisation was being cut. They have been supportive in providing small grants, but more importantly in offering advice and training and in helping to develop partnerships and raise standards in the museums, archives and library sectors. It is extremely valuable to have an organisation with a national strategic overview of best practice and new opportunities in the museum sector, which has contributed to the rapid growth, and improved accessibility of high quality museums across the country over the last few years. We hope the Museums’ Hub will be able to fill the gap to a certain extent, but it seems unlikely that the current level of support will be continued – this will have a particularly impact on small museums, especially those operated by the voluntary sector, which benefit more from low level support structures than larger organisations.

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


While support from businesses and philanthropists is always welcome and should be encouraged, it is essential that such sources of funding are not relied upon as core funding. Philanthropy is easier to secure for large, high-status national organisations, which will doubtless benefit from such schemes, but more localised community projects and organisations could be marginalised by an over-reliance on the type of funding. It should not be assumed that private support will flood in to fill the gap left by public funding, particularly for community organisations which may not have the expertise and networks to draw down private sponsorship. Investment tends to generate more investment, and without a certain level of core funding organisations will not have the capacity to seek out sponsorship and private support. In this situation, private patrons could have more influence over the direction of arts and heritage organisations, potentially affecting the social outcomes of their work and the types of audiences benefiting from their services.

Whether there need to be more Government incentives to encourage private donations


It would be helpful for the Government to raise awareness of the opportunities associated with private donation and to offer support to organisations in developing their unrestricted funding strategies. However, as above private donations will tend to disproportionately benefit high-status organisations and more work needs to be done to encourage this funding to filter down to the local community. Government incentives to encourage private funding should not replace core funding, particularly for smaller and more vulnerable organisations.

September 2010