Contributing to the national cultural policy debate

Key principles

Five key principles to guide the design of the new policy and new structures to achieve a more equitable settlement across England quickly and effectively.

  • Subsidiarity – taking decisions on the disposition of public funding at the right level
  • Sustainability and diversity – economic, environmental, social and cultural
  • Intrinsic and instrumental – celebrating these complementary not competing purposes for the public funding of arts and culture
  • Transparency – clear and accountable data on the sources of Lottery income and on visitors to and audience for major publicly funded cultural institutions
  • The distinctiveness of funds derived from the National Lottery – ethically different, distinct from and not to be used as a substitute for Treasury funding

the Next Steps?

The Culture White Paper

Any overall Government Policy for Culture that has been a year in the making deserves serious evaluation. The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee – whose 2014-15 Inquiry asked for this overall policy – would seem to be the right forum for such consideration. GPS Culture set out the benchmarks against which we thought it should be judged in ‘A Policy for the Arts and Culture in England. The Next Steps?’. The Select Committee recently announced its inquiry into ‘Countries of Culture’  and has invited submissions before 22nd April.

Jennie Lee’s White Paper challenged the core assumptions of the status quo, established a framework of policy and structure that lasted for over 30 years and achieved fundamental change for the good in partnership with local government for people, communities, cultural organisations, artists and all those actively engaged with the arts as participants across the country.

The Minister has claimed the mantle of Jennie Lee. He has set his own bar. It is a high one and his White Paper should be judged against it.

GPS Culture April 2016

Changes in local government and its leadership arrangements (particularly the emerging new combined authorities) and the imminent Culture White Paper make this the right moment for GPS Culture to set out two simple propositions for national, regional and local arts policies.

The Next Steps? – a contribution to debate on a new national policy for the arts and culture in England is GPS Culture’s contribution to the 2016 national debates on the arts and culture and is targeted at

  • local government - principally the leadership of emerging combined authorities
  • cultural organisations, in the arts, museums and libraries, based in their areas
  • everyone interested in contributing to future policy for the arts and culture in England.

Two challenges that the White Paper must address

The White Paper on Culture faces two principal challenges. If it does not address them both head on and provide a credible route forward over the coming decade it will be unworthy of comparison with its 1965 predecessor.

Fundamental change from the present imbalances between the capital and the rest of the country

First, there should be a straightforward commitment to achieving fundamental change from the present imbalances to an England where great regional centres have the resources within their own mixed portfolio of cultural organisations to work with their international and metropolitan peers as equal partners.

The power to achieve this change is located in national government and - as the economy comes into balance – the funding required for new activity outside London should be found from taxation just  as it currently is for activity in the capital.

The potential of the arts and culture to play a leading role in supporting and enhancing individual and community wellbeing

Secondly, there should be an equally straightforward commitment to addressing the potential of the arts and culture to play a leading role in supporting and enhancing individual and community wellbeing in the local ‘places’ where we live our daily lives.

Within this policy there must be a very particular emphasis on the deployment of publicly provided funds to those communities and individuals facing the greatest challenges. Here the resources to achieve change can properly be found from the National Lottery and the power to design programmes and take decisions within them should be located below the national level.

GPS Culture proposes a simple, pragmatic and principle-led approach to such a new national cultural policy framework including a short transitional and preparatory period. During this, new local government structures – alone and/or in combination – working with appropriate partners would research need and opportunity and develop and pilot detailed outcome-based plans and programmes for each stream of funding in their areas.

Coda - Widening the analysis to all National Lottery good causes

The report concludes with a coda that illustrates the almost complete overlap between Lottery Directions for Arts Council England, Sport England, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund. It points out that joint working between these distributors is seen as desirable and it argues that the principles of subsidiarity should be seen as being as applicable to all.

The report suggests that – as with Business Rates – there could be a case for the Lottery good causes funding raised in particular geographical areas being retained for use within those areas [(]as long as] provided that (as with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) they were of sufficient scale to justify costs and avoid parochialism. As an example, a large Combined Authority with a population of 2.25 million would have over £50 million per annum to distribute at current levels of Lottery receipts.

Such a changed approach to Lottery distribution would provide a direct and non-partisan way in which we might achieve ‘more for less’, as well as the joined-up mobilisation of sport, arts, heritage, and communities in meeting the needs of citizens.


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