Arts Campaign: Give us a break Mr Brown

The IoS debate has put tax relief on the Chancellor's agenda

SOME of the biggest names in the arts will gather at the Royal Academy on Thursday to urge the Chancellor to end the continuing crisis by helping to ensure the arts are properly funded. A pre-Budget debate, co-hosted by the Independent on Sunday, on the options for arts funding, and the issues raised by our campaign to make donations to the arts tax deductible, will be addressed by the minister for the arts, Mark Fisher.

Mr Fisher will be part of a panel that includes Jude Kelly, the artistic director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse; Genista McIntosh, executive director of the National Theatre; David Gordon, secretary of the Royal Academy; and Peter Jenkinson of the Walsall Museum and Art Gallery.

The debate will be chaired by the broadcaster and arts writer Melvyn Bragg.

Leading figures in the arts in the invited audience will include Phillip Hedley of the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, Jennifer Edwards of the National Campaign for the Arts, Andreas Whittam-Smith of the British Board of Film Classification, Katie Wilson, chief executive of Carlton Television, David Glass of the David Glass Ensemble and Jonathan Holloway of Red Shift Theatre.

The Royal Academy of Arts and The Independent Forum on Government Funding of the Arts will look at the future of arts funding in Britain, following the Independent on Sunday campaign urging the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, to make all donations to the arts tax deductible in the forthcoming Budget.

A full report of the debate will appear in next Sunday's IoS.

And we will continue after the Budget with our wider campaign to ensure that the arts are funded properly and the debilitating crisis in the arts is ended.

The campaign continues to attract the support of readers, with large numbers of letters coming in. Last week the conductor and former music director of the English National Opera, Mark Elder, added his name to the appeal.

He pointed out that he had also worked in America, where he ran the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and knew how vital was a "climate of giving", in which members of the public had incentives to contribute to the arts.

We are urging Mr Brown to introduce a change in taxation law to enable people to make tax-free donations to arts companies and venues. A simple system could be brought in to replace the muddled and cumbersome system of tax relief through covenants and the Gift Aid Scheme.

This would massively increase the amount of money individuals give to the arts, and help end the financial crisis cultural institutions are facing.

The system is riddled with anomalies. Some arts organisations are charities, and so can claim tax relief, others are not. In addition, tax relief can only be claimed on donations above pounds 250, a deterrent to many who would like to help the arts.

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