§ 35. Mr. Simon Hughes
To ask the Minister for the Arts what has been the total amount of money spent on the arts by local authorities in England in each of the last 10 years.
§ Mr. Renton
Local authority expenditure on the performing arts is discretionary and there is therefore no central reporting requirement. The best available estimates of net spending are those prepared by the Policy Studies Institute which draw on annual surveys by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. With permission I shall circulate the figures in the Official Report.
The latest available indication of local authority support was provided in a recent Audit Commission report. It suggests that net spending in England and Wales in 1988–89 was about £160 million.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am grateful to the Minister for his comprehensive answer. Does he accept that an inevitable and factual effect of the poll tax is that spending on the performing arts by local authorities has decreased as a proportion of their total budgets? That is inevitable because the spending is discretionary. Will the Minister assure the House that in the discussions that are taking place behind closed doors between Departments and at the Cabinet table on what the successor to the poll tax will be, local authorities will not be penalised for trying to keep museums and libraries open and will not suffer the draconian Government impositions that have been experienced by many boroughs such as the one which I represent? Libraries have been closed because of the local government taxation system that has been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman and the Government of which he is a member—[HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] It is not rubbish; it is quite true.
§ Mr. Renton
The hon. Gentleman is anticipating decisions that have not yet been taken. For example, the London Arts Board has not yet announced the amount of money that it will make to arts organisations in Southwark. As the hon. Gentleman will know, last year, Southwark arts organisations received a great deal of money from the LAB's predecessor organisation. It will announce its budget next week, so the hon. Gentleman should keep some of his indignation until he hears how much money it proposes to give.
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