06 Aug, 2009

Is the Treasury behind the £100m arts shortfall?

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Tough budget planning at the Treasury may be to blame for the black hole in the Culture Department’s funding commitments

Since the Guardian reported that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport had overcommitted its capital budget by £100m for the financial years to 2011 – imperilling the proposed extensions to the British Museum, Tate Modern and the new BFI Film Centre – a little bird has whispered further information into the Diary’s ear.

There’s a suggestion that the shortfall is not entirely the fault of DCMS mismanagement, but may be partly due to a Treasury “hardening up” of budgets. Ben Bradshaw, the culture secretary, is, we hear, trying to figure out how much of the pledged capital sums (£50m for Tate, £8m for the British Museum and £45m for the BFI) can be delayed until after 2011. This is not a popular wheeze, since such a delay would push the grants into the next government spending round – meaning, depending on the next election result, that they could be left at the mercy of the Tories.

Meanwhile, our source suggests that the British Museum’s planned North West Development is “toast”, at least as far as the present government is concerned. The museum is said to be out of favour: asking opposition leader David Cameron to open the museum’s new Medieval Galleries in March went down in government circles like the proverbial knackered lift.

The British Museum, let it be said, pooh-poohed this suggestion, pointing to the frequent occasions on which government ministers have been honoured guests at museum events.

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