THE leader of the Green Party has called for the break-up of the Arts Council England, after new figures revealed how hard-up North-East Lottery players are funding culture spending in wealthy London and the South-East.
Natalie Bennett called for arts funding to be decided in the regions, with poorer northern areas getting more per head than leafy southern shires.
Speaking to The Northern Echo during a visit to the North-East, she said: “Arts funding is hugely concentrated on London.
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“So much money is flowing down into London and we would like to see that money given to the regions on a fair formula, then the regions could decide how to use that money.”
Ms Bennett said more deprived areas should receive more, because: “The arts is good both in terms of making people’s lives better, but also creating employment opportunities.”
Her call comes after a report revealed County Durham has the poorest arts funding return on its Lottery spending of anywhere in England.
Since 1995, Lottery players in the county have paid out £34m but received back just £12m.
By contrast, the City of Westminster has contributed £14.5m but received £408m.
The North made a net contribution of £216m, while London, the South East and the East have enjoyed a surplus of £416m.
More Lottery cash goes to London’s five major arts organisations than the country’s 33 council areas with lowest arts engagement, the Policy for the Lottery, the Arts and Community in England report claims.
The study echoes Ms Bennett’s call for decisions to be taken at a regional level, taking into account deprivation levels.
Arts Council England (ACE) chair Peter Bazalgette welcomed the debate the report had provoked, saying his organisation faced a real challenge in making sure Lottery funding was used in areas “where there is not enough great art and culture”.
ACE had increased Lottery support for grass roots arts groups across England in the last three years, he said, and if Lottery income stays healthy ACE would improve on this trend “bringing great art and culture as close to home as possible for everyone”.
Newcastle City Council in particular has faced criticism for cutting arts funding to cope with austerity measures and last week concerns were raised the North-East would lose out on charitable funding when the Northern Rock Foundation closes later this year.
The Northern Echo will be interviewing politicians from all major parties ahead of the European elections on Thrusday, May 22.
Ms Bennett said she was confident the Greens would increase their return in the North-East as a lot of people were seeing her party as the “anti-Ukip” vote.