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Arts (Southwark)

Volume 168: debated on Monday 5 March 1990

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To ask the Minister for the Arts what information he has on the amount of Government money which went to arts organisations or activities in Southwark in the last year for which figures are available.

In the current year, Greater London Arts has given £477,000 to 60 different activities and organisations in the borough of Southwark. The imperial war museum received £10·4 million, and the local museums and galleries in London receive financial support and advice via the Museums and Galleries Commission.

I am grateful for the Minister's answer. Is he aware, however, of the double danger that faces boroughs such as Southwark in the coming financial year? Much of the money provided for the arts on the abolition of the GLC expires this year and will not be renewed. If the Secretary of State for the Environment were to poll-tax-cap Southwark, there would probably be no funding for the arts at all, either in Southwark or docklandswide. Will the Minister talk to his right hon. Friend, and make sure that the implications of poll tax and poll-tax-capping are clear? Discretionary funding will probably disappear altogether if any such idea crosses the desks in Marsham street.

It is entirely up to the borough of Southwark to decide what sums it can and should provide for artistic activities on behalf of its ratepayers. I note with interest that, over the past year, Scottish local authorities—despite the introduction of the community charge in Scotland a year ago—have been keeping up their support for the arts: vast sums are not required to provide them with good support and to enable them to flourish.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the great work done by arts institutions in Southwark such as the Southwark Heritage Association, the Shakespeare Globe trust and the Dulwich picture gallery, and of the enterprising way in which they have attracted not only public support but business sponsorship. Does my right hon. Friend share my disappointment at Southwark council's reluctance to support those artistic institutions financially, morally or in some other way?

I sympathise with my hon. Friend's view. The Dulwich picture gallery, for example, is an outstanding centre of excellence. It makes a strong bid for private sector support and, indeed, I am going there to support its appeal for extra funds. Certainly such bodies deserve support, as does any centre of excellence.