Policy paper

2010 to 2015 government policy: arts and culture

Updated 8 May 2015

This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/supporting-vibrant-and-sustainable-arts-and-culture. Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.


Our nation is a world leader in culture and the arts. Innovative, challenging and exciting arts and culture improve people’s lives, benefit our economy and attract tourists from around the world.

Arts and culture strengthen communities, bringing people together and removing social barriers. Involving young people in the arts increases their academic performance, encourages creativity, and supports talent early on.

So it’s important that everyone can experience and take part in arts and cultural activities, whatever their social or economic background.

We recognise the importance of freedom of expression in the arts, which is why decisions about which cultural organisations and projects receive public funding are made independently (or at ‘arm’s length’) from government.

To help keep our arts in their world-leading position, we need to encourage mixed funding from a variety of sources, including philanthropic giving and fundraising, alongside public funding.


To support vibrant and sustainable arts and culture, we are:

  • providing funding for the arts in England through Arts Council England
  • making sure all young people have access to good-quality cultural activities, as set out in our cultural education summary of programmes and opportunities published in July 2013
  • running the UK City of Culture programme
  • helping arts and culture organisations find new funding sources, including philanthropy and fundraising, that will, alongside public funding, give them a secure future
  • promoting British art around the world through the Government Art Collection

The British Council also promotes British culture abroad.


The introduction of National Lottery funding in 1995 transformed funding for the arts.

From April 2012 we increased the share of National Lottery funding for the arts from 16.67% to 20%. Together with increased National Lottery income, this means that Arts Council England should receive £262 million of National Lottery funding in 2014 to 2015, compared with £151 million in 2010 to 2011.

Arts Council England receives both National Lottery funding and direct government (‘grant-in-aid’) funding:

  2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 (est) 2013/14 (est) 2014/15 (est)
Grant-in-aid 450,000,000 388,000,000 359,000,000 348,000,000 343,000,000
Lottery 151,000,000 182,000,000 243,000,000 260,000,000 262,000,000
Total 601,000,000 569,000,000 602,000,000 608,000,000 605,000,000

Government and National Lottery support for the arts will only ever make up part of their overall funding. We are encouraging the development of other sources of income including philanthropic giving (private donations) and independent fundraising.

Appendix 1: funding for the arts

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

We fund the arts through Arts Council England, the national body for the arts in England. It is responsible for giving out public money from government and the National Lottery, to create cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. It makes decisions about which organisations and projects to fund independently of government (‘at arm’s length’) which means there is no question of any political involvement in arts funding decisions.

Arts Council England accounts for and explains their decisions to government through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Parliament and the general public. The Arts Council operates within a Royal Charter which governs all its decisions.

If you want to apply for Arts Council England funding, visit its website.

Arts Council England is just one source of funding for the arts. We want to increase the range of funding options available to arts organisations, so they are less reliant on public funding.

Appendix 2: supporting mixed funding for arts and culture including philanthropy and fundraising

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Public funding for the arts is an important principle that the government supports. But we want arts and cultural organisations to find additional sources of funding to help them become more resilient.

We want to encourage private donations, including through the tax system, and to support arts and cultural organisations to increase the range and effectiveness of their own fundraising.

Private giving: Catalyst fund

Government and National Lottery funding supports the Catalyst fund, a £100m private giving investment programme for arts and heritage organisations.

The scheme is made up of investment from Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). It helps cultural organisations find other ways to produce income and get funding from private sources through:

  • endowments: awards for organisations, matched £1 for £1 from private donations
  • capacity building and match-funding, to help organisations reach further with their fundraising
  • helping organisations develop their fundraising models to be more effective

Further details on how to apply are on the Catalyst scheme’s website.

Tax breaks

In 2011 we announced tax incentives aimed at boosting legacy giving to cultural bodies and other charities, as well as the first ever tax incentive to encourage lifetime giving of works of art to public collections through the Cultural Gifts Scheme.


We published 3 independent research reports that look at a number of ways that could encourage philanthropy at the end of 2012. The first looks at removing barriers to legacy giving, the second researches ways to boost fundraising capacity outside of London and the third report considers the scope for harnessing digital technology in cultural fundraising.

Appendix 3: UK City of Culture programme

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

We run the competition for UK City of Culture. This programme, inspired by Liverpool’s time as European Capital of Culture in 2008, uses culture and creativity to transform communities and help grow artistic talent. Winning the title and hosting a year of cultural events will help to:

  • attract more visitors to the city, supporting the local economy
  • increase media interest in the city, helping longer-term tourism
  • bring community members together
  • increase levels of professional artistic collaboration - people working together on creative projects

A study of Liverpool 2008, Impacts ’08 shows the long-term effects of being European Capital of Culture.

Derry-Londonderry was the first UK City of Culture 2013.

2017 competition

Hull was selected as UK City of Culture 2017 from a shortlist of 4 cities, which were:

  • Dundee
  • Hull
  • Leicester
  • Swansea Bay

The following places submitted an initial bid but did not reach the shortlist:

Aberdeen Chester
East Kent Hastings and Bexhill on Sea
Plymouth Portsmouth and Southampton
Southend on Sea  

The UK City of Culture independent advisory panel assessed all the bids. It selected the shortlist and final winning bid to recommend to ministers.

The timetable, requirements and assessment criteria for UK City of Culture 2017 were set out in the document below:

UK City of Culture guidance, timetable and assessment criteria

Appendix 4: arts and cultural education for young people

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Cultural Education in England review

The Department for Education and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport commissioned an independent review of cultural education in 2011. We asked Darren Henley to look at how we can best invest public money to make sure every child experiences a wide variety of high quality cultural experiences.

We published Cultural education: a summary of programmes and opportunities in July 2013. It sets out our commitment to give all young people access to good-quality cultural activities.