The fact of the matter is that the Arts Council has made significant progress, as I have outlined, in delineating moneys outside the London area. It is also important that my Department and I access all people throughout England. Arts Council England is focused on that too.
I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate Sue Williamson, who joins the Arts Council as director of libraries from St Helens library service, which I referred to a moment ago. She most recently delivered its award-winning cultural hubs and arts in libraries programme, and oversaw the successful application to the Arts Council’s national portfolio.
Another Arts Council-funded scheme is First Art, which is a collective of four cultural and community organisations working within former coalfields in north-east Derbyshire and north-east Nottinghamshire. It aims to bring inspiring cultural experiences within reach of everyone in Ashfield, Bolsover, Mansfield and north-east Derbyshire over the next two years. It is a very exciting programme.
The hon. Member for Bassetlaw raised the issue of funding for coalfield communities at Prime Minister’s questions a few weeks ago, when he alleged an inequality of funding by comparing funding for coalfield communities with funding in the London Borough of Islington, which he mentioned again this evening. I am happy to correct that assertion on the record. Having read his letter to me following Prime Minister’s questions, I see that his figures are based on the Arts Council’s national portfolio funding only, which led to the conclusion of a discrepancy in funding. In actual fact, although the national portfolio organisation funding is an incredibly important part of the Arts Council’s work—it provides regular funding over a set period to some of England’s most vital cultural institutions—it is by no means the only form of funding it distributes. The Arts Council has established various funding streams to tackle different issues across the nation. Many of those funding streams are heavily focused on supporting areas outside London. Some 80% to 90% of the funding for the Ambition for Excellence scheme, which supports talent, leadership and ambition, will be spent outside London. Recent research showed that 91% of touring activity funded by the Arts Council strategic touring fund was spent outside London. Some £35 million will be invested in the scheme between 2015 and 2018.