My Department’s Taking Part survey shows high levels of access to the arts in all regions of England; the figures are 78.9% in England overall and 74.5% in the west midlands.
First, may I pay tribute to the great work the Minister is doing on the Wedgwood museum? However, as a result of the extraordinary and disproportionate cuts to local authority budgets, great museums such as the Potteries museum and art gallery in Stoke-on-Trent face a funding and scholarship crisis. In a recent letter to The Guardian, the chair of Arts Council England, Liz Forgan, said that bodies such as hers cannot fill the vacuum. What talks is the Minister having with that great aesthete and lover of the arts the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to make sure that our great cities and regions continue to have access to great art?
I met the great lover of the arts’ junior Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my right hon. Friend Mr Foster, only yesterday, and my Department has regular communications with the Department for Communities and Local Government. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we managed to keep the cuts to national portfolio organisations down to 15% or less, and we have massively increased the national lottery share for the arts. However, we do, of course, take concerns about local authority funding seriously.
Does the Minister agree that funding for the arts through the national lottery has vastly increased because of the changes made by this Government?
Absolutely. We increased the share for the arts and for heritage from 16% to 20%, which means that the arts will get hundreds of millions of pounds more of lottery funding.
The Minister’s Department is responsible for the arts, which are so important to not only our culture, but jobs and growth. The Government have already cut funding for the Arts Council by 30% and abolished the regional development agencies, which supported arts in the regions. Now, as my hon. Friend Tristram Hunt has said, local government, which has always been such an important support for arts locally, is struggling with huge central Government cuts to its budgets. That is set to have a catastrophic impact on the arts in local communities, with some councils set to end their funding of local arts altogether. Will the Minister make an immediate detailed assessment of local government cuts in arts funding and place a copy in the House of Commons Library?
It is an honour to answer a question from the right hon. and learned Lady, but I simply do not recognise the picture she paints. The arts are in a very healthy state in this country, as I said. We have maintained significant funding for the arts and for our national museums and heritage. We have substantially increased lottery funding for the arts and heritage. I will, of course, continue to engage with local authorities on this important issue.