More Bang For
The Cultural Buck

Cultural minister Maria Miller has upset many in the arts world by saying organizations must prove they benefit the UK economy or face having their public funding withdrawn.

In a speech at the British Museum April 24, she told the UK’s arts and culture community that she’s “fighting their corner within government” as the spending review approaches, but they must “demonstrate the healthy dividends” that taxpayer investment creates.

Hundreds of theatres, galleries and other arts organisations say they face the prospect of losing some or all of their public funding because of further government cuts.

“I come to you today and ask you to help me reframe the argument – to hammer home the value of culture to our economy,” Miller explained.

“I know this will not be to everyone’s taste but in an age of austerity, when times are tough and money is tight, our focus must be on culture’s economic impact.”

Her speech came as various cabinet ministers were struggling to protect their departmental share of the government’s dwindling resources.

In order to cut its deficit and return the economy to any sort of growth that’s more noticeable than the 0.3 percent recorded in the first three months of 2013, the treasury now wants a further £11.5 billion ($17.8bn) in 2015-16.

Chief treasury secretary Danny Alexander has warned that ministers in control of unprotected departments – that’s anything bar the NHS, schools and international development – will have to accept cuts of around 6 percent.

The department for culture, media and sport last year outlined a 30 percent cut in grant aid for the Arts Council from £452 million to £350 million by 2014-15.

Leading cultural figures including Danny Boyle, the film director behind the Olympics opening ceremony, and Sir Nicholas Hytner, the outgoing director of the National Theatre, have attacked the cuts and warned that Britain’s status as a world leader in culture is at risk.