A new report published today concludes that Arts Council England’s investment plans for 2015-18 still favour London massively over the rest of England, with a balance in the capital’s favour of over 4:1.

The research by GPS Culture, the team behind 2013’s Rebalancing our Cultural Capital and April’s PLACE Report, claims that of the total of £1,589 million that ACE will invest from its Grant in Aid and Lottery income streams over the years to 2018, £689 million (43.4%) will be invested in the arts in London (a per capita return of £81.87 per head of population), while £900 million will be invested in the rest of England (a per capita return of £19.80 php).

Produced independently by arts researchers Peter Stark, David Powell and Christopher Gordon, the report’s title, Hard Facts to Swallow, references the 1982 publication, A Hard Fact to Swallow (Policy Studies Institute), which found Arts Council funding in London in 1980-81 to be £3.37 per head of population while it was £0.66 for the rest of England.

Powell said of ACE’s current funding approach: “Since the launch of their investment plans for 2015-18 on July 1, the Arts Council has worked hard to create the impression of a body striving to begin to rectify historic imbalances between London and the rest of England and between those already benefitting substantially from public funding of the arts and those who do not do so. That effort may well be in place but our detailed analysis of the numbers tells another story.”

The report concludes that, rather than addressing the imbalances, over the period to 2018 the disparity between the capital and the rest of the country ‘will worsen significantly’. Powell continued: “We conclude that the forces of custom, practice and vested interest are just too strong. The Arts Council repeatedly demonstrates a systemic inability to reform itself without external intervention.”

Research framework

The report’s authors state that its analysis of ACE’s 2015-18 investment plans are set in a longer-term research framework that shows an ‘undeclared policy to shed smaller companies from the National portfolio (a net loss of 352 since 2007/8), a continuing failure to address cultural diversity in the country and worrying inconsistencies in the operation of grant programmes.’

The report also takes issue with ACE’s use of Lottery money, which DCMS guidelines state should be used for  ‘new and additional’ activity. Instead, say GPS Culture, funds have been redirected to ‘major opera and ballet companies’.

The Hard Facts to Swallow report, as well as an executive summary and supporting working papers, can be downloaded at www.gpsculture.co.uk/downloads.php

Arts Council England’s own outline of its investment for 2015-18 can be found at www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/our-investment-2015-18