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Work of Arts Council England, Third Report of Session 2014-15

Commissioned by the House of Commons, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, 2014, 47 pages, ISBN 9780215078629

Commissioned by the House of Commons, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, this report deals with the work of the Arts Council England, providing both a well-rounded critique and precise recommendations.

The Arts Council England plays a vital role in safeguarding, consolidating and building the nation's cultural infrastructure and enhancing its quality of life. It supports a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries. Support for the arts comes principally through the distribution of public money, either grants in aid from the tax payer or proceeds from National Lottery ticket sales. Keeping this in mind, it goes without saying that its work is an important public concern.

The authors acknowledge "what is beyond question is that the Arts Council has had to juggle significantly reduced resources" due to the current economic context, while emphasising that any additional fall in its funding would be disappointing. The problem of vague criteria according to which the Council's funds are rewarded is stressed as a concerning issue and it is recommended that this process should be more transparent and supplemented by post-decision accountability. However, it seems that the main problem with the work of Arts Council England is the imbalance in the share of arts funding that clearly goes in favour of London, which is even recognised by the Chair of the Arts Council on Arts Council figures. Therefore, the authors claim that "the Arts Council is well-placed to tackle the clear imbalance of funding that favours London unfairly. It must do so with greater urgency if it is to realise its declared ambition to engineer the provision of great art and culture for everyone". This is not to say that London should lose its status of a world cultural centre. Quite contrary, this is just to recall that the Council should not concentrate purely on the "London-centric versions of excellence", while failing to recognise that it is intended to benefit England as a whole.

Finally, it is recommended that "a strategic direction for the Arts Council would best be set by a clear overall policy statement by the Government", resulting in "a comprehensive arts policy".

Full report: www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmcumeds/279/279.pdf