UK Arts Rescue Fund Has Paid Out Just Over Half of Money Allocated

A Government fund established last year to support the arts and heritage sectors through lockdowns has only paid out little more than half of the money it has allocated, leaving venues across the country cash-strapped. The Guardian has the story.

The National Audit Office said the culture recovery fund had budgeted for £830 million in grants and loans funding so far, but only £495 million had been paid out.

MPs have responded angrily to the findings, urging the Government to hand over the cash while “there are still organisations left to support”.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced the £1.57 billion fund to help the cultural, arts and heritage institutions survive the pandemic last summer.

It has supported about 3,000 arts organisations in England so far, including venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and Southbank Centre in London, and M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool.

The fund was increased by £300 million in the budget earlier this month, with the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, saying: “It’s such a relief we can look ahead now so this funding is not just about survival but for planning and preparing for the reopening of theatres, galleries and gigs.”

But auditors have examined the allocation of the funds so far and found that of the £1 billion that has been made available, about £830 million in grants and loans has been awarded to different organisations but only £495 million of that has been paid out, auditors said.

The department has assumed, in the worst-case scenario, that social distancing would remain until the end of March this year, auditors pointed out, and that demand for theatre tickets and venue capacity would remain at 40% of pre-Covid levels.

But the current situation exceeds this worst-case scenario.

Last month, plans for a new 2,000-seat concert hall in London were scrapped due to the impact of lockdowns. Venues across the country have suffered greatly over the last year from the shutting down of the arts. Of course, the best approach from here would be to scrap the “rescue” fund altogether and just let the sector re-open.

Worth reading in full.

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