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Arts (Inner Cities)

Volume 403: debated on Monday 7 April 2003

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What steps the Arts Council is taking to promote arts projects in inner-city areas.[107049]

The record levels of funding increase announced for the arts last week—the biggest for 20 years—recognise the importance that this Government attach to the arts and to extending their benefit to anybody who wants to enjoy culture. Jubilee Arts in Sandwell is a good example. It has seen an increase in its funding from more than £107,000 this year to £623,000 by the end of the spending round in 2005–06. That represents getting on for a 500 per cent. increase, which is in addition to the £29 million of lottery investment toward the c/PLEX building that will house the Jubilee Arts project. I would like to pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his advocacy of that important project.

I thank the Secretary of State for her reply. I welcome the national increase in arts funding and especially the money for the Jubilee Arts organisation and the c/PLEX project, which is an innovative arts and technology project that is pioneered by Sylvia King, who is one of my constituents. The Secretary of State may not be aware that the project has stimulated a further £250 million of regeneration and development money. Will she examine whether the example of West Bromwich and c/PLEX can be used to encourage other inner-city areas to promote arts-driven regeneration projects?

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his suggestion. We believe that there are tremendous opportunities to link regeneration and culture. We have seen the benefits in cities such as Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester; indeed, in almost all 12 of the cities that are bidding to be the European capital of culture. I shall ensure that the beneficial experience of West Bromwich is added to that proud list.

While I appreciate and welcome the increase of funding through the Arts Council of England, would the Secretary of State agree, on reflection, that that sum has been completely dwarfed by the significant decrease of grants made available from the New Opportunities Fund and the community fund? Surely she should address the reasons for that decline if we are to help the arts in the way in which we all want.

I do not accept the premise of the question. The sports and arts are funded by the Exchequer and the lottery, which in the case of the arts is provided in equal parts. There has been a small decline in lottery ticket sales in recent years, but the regulator and the operator are confident that that trend is set to reverse. The arts across every constituency in this country can look forward to a bright future because they have a Government who are committed to investing in them as part of our central purpose, not as an afterthought.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that those cities that do not become the European capital of culture or win the bid feel rather bruised by that? Many of us in Yorkshire believe that having been left off the shortlist, Bradford feels that it is unloved and uncared for in the arts. Surely all those other cities that will not become the European capital of culture should have a chance that is not European funded but funded by her Department to take significant initiatives in cultural events.

No doubt we could hear a chorus of suggestions around the Chamber.

Bradford is a wonderful city and I look forward to visiting it towards the end of the month. It proudly boasts many cultural institutions. My hon. Friend is right: bidding for the capital of culture unlocked vision and ambition in those bidding cities, including Bradford. We are considering ways in which the ambition in those bids can—certainly in part—be realised.