'Existential threat to local culture’ MPs warn DCMS

Local theatres, museums and leisure centres need urgent government action to avoid an “existential threat” from the cost of living crisis, the Commons culture select committee warns in a report published today.

The MPs’ report says the government needs to provide urgent financial support if our cultural hinterland is to survive.

“Local museums, galleries and theatres have a huge role to play in regenerating high streets and town centres away from the big cities, but they run up against pervasive and persistent barriers to their success” said Julian Knight, the committee’s chair. “With spiralling energy bills exacerbating the scars inflicted by the pandemic, the government must come forward with targeted support to ensure local organisations are not hit by a wave of closures at a time when art and culture is more important than ever in providing people with an escape from the harsh realities of the cost-of-living crisis.”

He said a new model of funding is needed which “stops cash for culture being hoovered up by all the big players and instead recognises the importance of the grassroots” as a key component to the government’s levelling up policy. A renewed focus on skills and vocational education has to include support for industry-backed schools, training and apprenticeships across the country to help tackle a chronic skills shortage in the sector "and provide a ladder of opportunity for people across the country.”

The report, which follows an inquiry into funding for cultural initiatives in areas that have historically missed out and into the role creative talent and businesses could play in revitalising public spaces post-pandemic, calls on culture secretary Michelle Donelan and chancellor Jeremy Hunt, a former culture secretary, to immediately provide targeted support through VAT or business rate relief for cultural, sporting and media organisations to prevent “exacerbating long-term scarring”.

It says national cultural institutions that receive the lion’s share of public cash should have a duty to address audiences across the country and support grassroots organisations, with the government providing incentives for private investment.

“People should be put at the centre of efforts to level up the country through culture” Knight said.


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