North is the poor relation in spending on the arts
Arts funders are propping up a system in which grants are skewed heavily in favour of London's museums and galleries to the exclusion of any other part of the country, figures have revealed.
Leading members of the arts industry have called for an overhaul of the funding system after revelations that public and private arts money poured into London while other areas of the country were neglected.
More than 13 times more money per head was spent on the arts in the capital last year compared to the regions. Arts Council England (ACE) spent £22 per head on regularly-funded arts organisations in the capital, compared to £1.62 per person in the South-east. The imbalance was leaving other regions of the country bereft of cultural hubs, critics warned.
The figures, which referred to spending in the year 2007-08, were revealed in a parliamentary question from the Liberal Democrat culture, media and sport spokesman, Don Foster. He said: "The Government says it wants more people in all parts of the country to get involved in the arts. This can't happen unless everyone has access to well-funded local arts organisations. Much more needs to be done to enable the regions to set up their own cultural hubs and to make sure that they get their fair share of arts funding."
Phil Redmond, the creator of the northern-based television soap opera Hollyoaks and who was also a driving force behind last year's Liverpool City of Culture, said the figures suggested "the usual disparity between London and the rest".
The ACE spent £8.30 per head in the West Midlands, while £4.82 was spent in Yorkshire and £1.62 in the South-east. These new figures suggest that the ACE's five-year investment strategy, which aimed to boost funding in the regions in 2007, has so far failed.
Only recently, the ACE announced that it would spend in excess of £1.6bn between 2008 and 2011 in order to bring artistic experiences to "as many people as possible around the country". Alan Davey, the chief executive of ACE, said: "There are anomalies in levels of arts investment across the country that date back to the different patterns of investment applied by the old regional arts boards. Since the merger in 2002, Arts Council England has sought to close those gaps through targeted investment in certain regions."
He pointed out that London was home to a number of national arts organisations and that that may go some way to accounting for the difference. A similar bias towards the capital is also evident in private-sector funding of the arts in England, he said.
The latest figures from Arts & Business, an agency that promotes private investment in the arts, revealed that London received £477m last year, which equates to 70 per cent of the country's private investment in the arts.
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