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This debate pack has been compiled ahead of the debate on regional support for the arts to be held on Wednesday 15 July 2015 at 2.30pm in Westminster Hall. The Member in charge of the debate is Robert Jenrick. Debate packs are produced quickly after the announcement of Parliamentary business. They are intended to provide a summary or overview of the issue being debated and identify relevant briefings and useful documents, including press and parliamentary material. More detailed briefing can be prepared for MPs on request to the Library.

Much of the public money that goes into the arts is channelled through Arts Council England (ACE), which receives a direct grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), as well as distributing Lottery grants. As part of the general squeeze on public finances, the last Parliament saw significant reductions in the funds set aside for the arts. Some people feel that ‘prestige’, London-based organisations – galleries and museums, theatre, opera and ballet companies, orchestras, etc – continue to get preferential treatment from funders.

With the launch of its investment plans for 2015-18 in July 2014, ACE signalled its determination to rectify historic imbalances between London and the rest of England. There were specific initiatives to build capacity outside London, to encourage cultural communities to grow and to encourage touring.

However, ACE’s critics suggest there is still an absence of any strategic support for participation in the arts at local level and the contribution that such work can make to individual and community wellbeing. They point to a loss of numerous smaller companies from ACE’s national portfolio, and allege continuing failure to address cultural diversity across the country and inconsistency in the operation of its grant programmes.

At the same time, local authority budgets have been cut, and local arts projects have been among the casualties. Arts organisations have sought, with varying success, to make up the shortfall from other funding sources – trusts, foundations, corporate sponsorship, and private giving in the form of donations, membership schemes and legacies. With or without public funding, determined work goes on to involve local communities in the arts and to reach out beyond established audiences.

Prior to the Westminster Hall debate, Digital Outreach  organised a debate on Twitter. The digital debate started from 2 – 4pm on Tuesday 14 July. The Member in charge of the Westminster Hall debate, Robert Jenrick and members of the public contributed.

The idea for digital debates linked to debates in Westminster Hall came from the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy, which stated: 

“We believe the public want the opportunity to have their say in House of Commons debates; we also believe that this will provide a useful resource for MPs and help to enhance those debates. We therefore recommend a unique experiment: the use of regular digital public discussion forums to inform debates held in Westminster Hall.”

 The Twitter debate formally finished at 4pm yesterday but it is likely that people will continue to contribute using the hashtag #artsfunding throughout the Westminster Hall debate today. To keep up with the debate on Twitter please use this link: twitter arts funding debate

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