Hard Facts to Swallow is the third evidence-based report produced by GPS Culture (Peter Stark, David Powell and Christopher Gordon) addressing the performance of Arts Council England in relation to its stewardship responsibilities for the arts in England. It offers a detailed analysis and evaluation of the Arts Council England’s (ACE) investment plans for 2015-18 and was published on Friday 10 October 2014. You can read a summary of the report here.
The new analysis examining the impact of ACE’s new investment plans have shed light on the extent to which smaller organisations are losing out on guaranteed 3-year funding, as a trend for fewer larger awards has been established. During a period when the total value of funding allocated to the regular funding of arts activity actually grew by more than £15m, the value of funding allocated to awards of less than £100k a year has halved, falling from £26m – 8% of the total budget in 2007/8 – to £13m, which represents 4% of the 2015-18 budget for National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs).
This analysis is presented in ‘Arts Council England’s National Investment Plans 2015-18: Hard Facts to Swallow’, which is the latest report by GPS Culture – the team behind the controversial report ‘Rebalancing our Cultural Capital’, which first lifted the lid on the imbalance in arts funding between London and the rest of England. The stinging new report puts forward a wide range of evidence, arguing that ACE’s current funding strategy will do nothing to improve the geographic imbalance of arts funding, rather, “during the three years of Arts Council England’s 2015-18 investment plans the imbalance between national funding for the arts in London and in the rest of the country will worsen”. It also raises questions about the arts Lottery, equity and social value, expressing concerns that “the investment plans focus ever more benefit, increasingly Lottery-sourced, on those from the most advantaged backgrounds” and suggests that the involvement of many members of ACE’s National Council with some of England’s larger NPOs “might feed a perception that such interests could have a disproportionate influence on decision making”. The impact of local authority cuts is also covered in the report, which notes “a disturbing inconsistency between the Arts Council’s relationship with local government in London and elsewhere” and concludes that “London has the capacity to do more to fund the arts for its own citizens”.