North East council leaders are calling on the Government to allow decisions about the £1.57 billion “culture rescue” package to be made locally.
In a letter to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Cllr Simon Henig argues that the best way to ensure the whole sector gets the support it needs is for the funding to be managed locally.
Cllr Henig has written in his capacity as Chair of both the North East Culture Partnership (NECP) and Association of North East Councils, which represents the leaders and elected mayors of all 12 North East local authorities.
In the letter to Oliver Dowden MP, Cllr Henig welcomes the funding and the Government’s recognition of the vital importance of the sector, which supports millions of jobs across the country. He highlights the challenges venues and organisation in the region are facing in the wake of the lockdowns and the need for funding to help them survive.
He writes: “Our key message to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is that funding must support the whole cultural sector ecosystem – not just large organisations, although these are important. The best way to ensure this is for funds to be managed locally, rather than nationally. A good example is the way local authorities have managed to get business grants distributed quickly.
“We want to make the case for regional investment from the DCMS £1.57bn support package for our cultural organisations and the many creative practitioners in the North East.
“We would welcome a process where the funding is devolved to ensure that it benefits the sector and local communities as quickly as possible to enable us to sustain and grow our important cultural offer.”
ANEC set up NECP in 2013 to lead on the North East CaseforCulture strategy and the partnership went on to be cited in a DCMS White Paper as a national model of good practice.
It responded quickly to the lockdowns, bringing together arts and heritage organisations from across the region to produce the first culture recovery plan in the UK. A series of recommendations was also agreed and is being taken forward by North East councils, combined authorities and local enterprise partnerships to sustain the region’s arts and heritage organisations through the oppressive “new abnormal”.
Cllr Henig said: “Cultural venues and organisations make an immeasurable contribution to our region, boosting our economy, attracting visitors and adding to the vibrancy of our communities. However, the NECP Culture Recovery Plan has shown that theatres and music venues in our region are particularly at risk and could face insolvency when furlough ends or if they cannot open for Christmas.
“We have identified interventions that could make a real difference but in order to act, we need a funding commitment from the Government. That is why we have written this letter and are doing everything we can to lobby ministers to give regions like the North East the power to allocate funds where they are needed most.”
The NECP Culture Recovery Plan can be viewed online at http://www.case4culture.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/NECP-Recovery-Plan-Research-01.06.20-.pdf