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Investment in culture

Here in the UK we are facing another Comprehensive Spending Review, and many cultural organisations are preparing themselves for bad news.


This is a familiar story for all of us who have been in the sector for a while. At BOP, we often look back nostalgically to the glory days of 2007 - 2010. We still shudder at the loss of some of our pioneering and innovative organisations and programmes, such as Creative Partnerships (run by CCE) or the UK Film Council, in the wake of 2010’s funding decisions.


So we wanted to look at what the data tells us about this rollercoaster. Eurostat publish data on the percentage of GDP spent by government on culture. This isn’t the total spend (and we can’t separate culture from recreation and religion), but it gives us a decent indication.





For the UK this shows a steady decline over time, with some marked peaks and troughs. The average difference from one year to the next is about 8%.


If you contrast this with Germany (now added to the chart below), you see how the UK faced a funding rollercoaster, compared to the steady climb in Germany. The average variation each year in Germany was 4%, around half what it was in the UK.





We know from our work in countries across Europe that the UK is famously short-termist with its investment culture, especially when compared to far-sighted Germany. It may be the same scenario here. These uncertain funding arrangements can result in poor outcomes as a sector overall. It is much harder to plan for the future when you don’t know how much money you have, and the uncertainty can distract organisations from their core focus.


So it seems to us that, whatever happens after the Comprehensive Spending Review next month, slowing down the funding rollercoaster would benefit everyone.


We used Eurostat data on General government expenditure by function (COFOG) [gov_10a_exp] and GDP and main components (output, expenditure and income) [nama_10_gdp] to estimate the total figures.

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Callum Lee

Managing Director

Callum leads the BOP team, its portfolio and strategic partnerships. His cultural and creative industries expertise is founded on leading analytical research and policy formulation in the UK and internationally.

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Callum Lee

Callum Lee

Managing Director