Culture key to recovery and prosperity: Cornerstones of Culture Report

Culture, heritage and creativity are essential to our future national prosperity, levelling up and recovery from crisis, a new LGA report finds.

'Cornerstones of Culture’, the final report of the LGA’s Independent Commission on Culture and Local Government, says that greater collaborative work between councils and cultural partners, combined with streamlined place-based funding from government, is crucial to supporting one of the fastest growing parts of the economy.

Seventy-five years after councils first invested in the arts in our communities following World War II, the LGA says local culture can now be used to support mental wellbeing, provide educational opportunity, and boost the economy as part of our recovery from the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis.

Local government invests £1.1 billion directly in cultural services each year in England, but this funding is under significant strain with the gap as calculated before the 2022 Autumn Statement standing at £2.4 billion.

Public funding is an essential part of the ecology of the arts and culture in the UK, which underpins growth in the creative industries and visitor economy. In 2019 the creative industries contributed £115.9 billion to the UK and accounted for 2.2 million jobs. These benefits can only be secured in the long-term with a sustainable funding settlement for local government.

The independent commission was launched in March, chaired by Baroness Lola Young, exploring the role local culture can play in supporting recovery from the pandemic through a programme of stakeholder engagement events and a series of roundtable discussions across four themes: sustainable and inclusive economic recovery; health inequalities; social mobility, cultural education, and creative skills; and place.

It identifies four key ‘cornerstones’ essential to a healthy local cultural ecosystem: capacity, leadership, funding and evidence, and sets out detailed recommendations for securing the future of local publicly funded culture.

Baroness Lola Young, Chair of the Independent Commission on Culture and Local Government, said:

“The pandemic was a powerful reminder that people reach for culture in times of crisis, as well of those of joy and celebration. Access to culture and creativity provides hope and inspiration and enriches people’s lives. That access must be fair for all.

“The publication of this report is not the end of the story. I hope our findings and recommendations will help councils, regional bodies, cultural arms-length bodies and national government to work together with cultural organisations and communities to weather the latest storm and secure the future of this vital community infrastructure.”

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said:

“Culture is so important to our country, from wellbeing and a sense of place in our communities, to economic and education benefits.

“Local government is the biggest public funder of culture, able to target money at the activities and places that need it most.

“Our report published today, concluding the excellent work of our independent commission, rightly highlights the need to prioritise this sector and provide a sustainable multi-year funding settlement to local government, along with streamlining the multiple small funding pots made available for cultural projects.”

Val Birchall, Past Chair, Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association (CLOA) and Commissioner of the report:

“The range and depth of the Commission’s work has been impressive, and truly demonstrates how publicly funded culture can improve the lives of people living in very different circumstances.

“The recommendations will strengthen the sector and equip it to take a central role in place-led development so that it continues to make a real difference to people and communities in a turbulent and uncertain future.”

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, Arts and Heritage Minister, said:

"Culture and heritage enrich our lives and help to build proud and prosperous communities. When we were cut off from them during the pandemic, we saw just how important they are to happy and healthy lives – and, as we recover, we want to make sure that they’re accessible to everyone. Local and national government both have important roles to play in supporting that.

"This report identifies helpful ways for local authorities and their partners to support and strengthen culture and heritage. As well as creating jobs, breathing life into old buildings, and contributing to local economies, they can boost our wellbeing and bolster civic pride. 

“I look forward to working with the Local Government Association as these ideas are brought to life."

Notes to editors