The Stage: Vouchers for all ‘a better way to subsidise the arts

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23 March 2010

An £11 voucher, distributed to everyone in the UK to invest in an arts event of their choice, would provide a better means of government cultural subsidy than the arts councils currently do, according to a new report by a free market think tank.

In the Adam Smith Institute’s briefing paper Arts Funding - A New Approach, David Rawcliffe suggests members of the public could each be given an annual non-transferable voucher, worth £11 at current funding levels, that arts producers could redeem for cash.

According to Rawcliffe, this would reduce administration costs and spread subsidy more fairly across the country, and “diversity and competition would flourish”.

Rebuffing the suggestion, a spokesman for Arts Council England commented: “The idea of giving everyone an £11 voucher to spend on the arts completely overlooks the role of the subsidised arts as a breeding ground for talent and innovation, and their role in feeding the commercial sector.

“This proposal would destroy an arts offer that brings pleasure to millions, is the envy of the world and is central to this country’s long-term economic future.”

The ASI is not affiliated to any political party, but was a key influence on Thatcherite economic policy.

Its executive director, Tom Clougherty, said: “I don’t think government should be subsidising the arts at all. I don’t like the bureaucracy that’s involved, I don’t like the way it distorts art for political ends and I particularly don’t like the way it means less wealthy areas subsidising London and less well-off people paying taxes to subsidise entertainment for the rich.

“In my view, art should, if at all possible, be funded through ticket sales and philanthropic donations.”

Published in The Stage here.