August 8: Inequality of arts funding

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County losing out to South

THE north-south divide takes many forms, with the one uniting feature being unfairness.

That unfairness is writ large in the levels of funding for the arts that Yorkshire receives compared with the south. There simply cannot be any good reason or justification for this region to receive approximately a third of the level of funding that goes to the south.

But that is what is happening. In London, £32.77 per person is provided to the arts. Here, the figure is £11.46.

This is a huge disparity that is shamefully short-changing the countless thousands of people in Yorkshire passionate about the arts in whatever genre they occupy.

Why should this be? The metropolitan establishment has long argued that London has a critical mass of the arts in the broadest sense, and that the capital is their national headquarters, just as it is the seat of government.

That argument is only a partial answer. Geography inevitably plays a part in deciding how funding is allocated, but it cannot account for the degree of disparity between London and Yorkshire.

The suspicion has to be that because Arts Council England is based in the capital, it is failing to look far enough beyond its own doorstep when deciding where funds go, despite criticism of imbalance by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

The vibrant and innovative arts scene in Yorkshire must be properly funded. The squeeze on local authority budgets, a traditional source of income, has come as a blow to arts organisations, though there is a glimmer of hope that the Northern Powerhouse concept may provide new funds.

In the meantime, the Arts Council must be kept under pressure to provide a more equitable settlement on funding. As in so many other aspects of the North-South divide, Yorkshire is not asking for preferential treatment, just a fair deal.

Farms hit by French crisis

FARMERS have a hard enough job as it is without being placed under added financial pressure by a crisis on a foreign shore that currently appears without solution despite the efforts of two governments.

Yet that is what is happening to farmers in Yorkshire as a result of the immigration crisis in Calais.

Delays in shipments of lamb to France, the biggest export market, is having a serious impact on prices.

This is intolerable. The strength of sterling against the Euro is already making life difficult for sheep farmers who are exporters.

However, that is one of the economic facts of life that every industry trading with the continent has to cope with.

But to have a situation bordering on anarchy impacting the incomes of farmers is quite another matter, and one which should concentrate minds in both London and Paris on sorting the problem out.

The Prime Minister’s assertion that the running battle between the authorities and migrants trying to force their way into Britain is likely to continue all summer offers absolutely no comfort whatsoever to farmers.

And yesterday’s mooted night-time closure of the Channel Tunnel holds out only the prospect of even more delays to the export of British meat.

These are not abstract matters. These are issues that jeopardise the livelihoods of farmers and need to be addressed with the utmost urgency in both Britain and France.

That riots at Calais should be causing disquiet on the farms of Yorkshire is a matter of great concern.

The Government must act quickly and decisively as this situation cannot continue.

In praise of free fun

THERE will be many a parent who nods in rueful agreement with the finding of a survey that it costs £1,500 to keep children entertained during the summer holidays.

It is a staggering sum, and parents may well also find themselves reflecting on how we have come to state of affairs where having fun during the long summer days costs so much money.

Whatever happened to children making their own fun, using their fertile imaginations to conjure up games, of finding endless fascination in the country or at the coast?

Kicking a ball around or riding a bike costs nothing, and perhaps parents should resolve to encourage such timeless pastimes rather than acceding to demands for expensive entertainment or gadgets.

When it comes to having fun in the summer during the school holidays, it is time for families to set aside the costly Xbox or tablet computer and instead embrace the old axiom that the best things in life are free.