Maria Miller – 2014 Speech at LGA Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Maria Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to the LFA Conference in Portsmouth on 3rd March 2014.

I’m delighted to be here in Portsmouth today. As you might be aware it stood, partnered by its long-time rival Southampton, as a candidate for our 2017 City of Culture competition. And a very worthy candidate it was too.

And as the home of the Mary Rose, HMS Victory, three theatres and a football team that has seen its fair share of success over the years, it is an extremely appropriate venue for this conference.

It is a city which clearly understands the value and importance of culture, tourism and sport – which is the underlying theme to this conference.

The precise topic of the conference is actually ‘making the most of your cultural, heritage and sport assets’.

I think this topic reflects two things:

Firstly, it acknowledges that times remain tough. We all now have to think differently, plan differently and deliver public services differently. That is true both in central Government and local Government.

But secondly, on a much more positive note, I think it reflects the central importance of culture, heritage and sport in communities up and down the country. It reflects the fact that these activities really are the bedrock of our modern lives. And that we all care about them a great deal.

In local government, as you all know only too well, the arts… culture… sport… are not statutory services. But they remain essential services. Good local authorities recognise that fact. They realise that their local residents expect these services to be provided and provided well. And they realise the benefits which these services offer.

The same arguments apply in central Government as in local Government. We continue to prioritise these areas both because we know people care about them deeply… and because we know what activity in these areas can achieve.

Today I want to talk, if I may, about some of the arguments we have at our disposal when we argue for support for these areas. I want to talk about the balance between national and local government funding and what we have done to help these sectors. And I want to talk about the role of partnerships, in particular, as a means by which we can all make the most of our assets.

Intrinsic Value

I’d like to begin with a simple proposition.

I believe that culture – and I’m using the word in its very broadest sense… to include the arts… our creative industries… our built heritage… and also including the central role that sport has in our lives… is absolutely fundamental to who we are.

It has a privileged place in our lives. It is uniquely able to move us, inspire us… make us laugh and make us cry. As I said recently in a speech, it’s what makes our hearts sing. In my opinion this, in and of itself, is a compelling enough reason for any government – central or local – to continue to fund these sectors.

I feel proud and privileged to have responsibility for these sectors at a national level. And I am sure you feel the same in your local areas. Trips to the theatre… family kick-arounds in the park… visiting local heritage sites…these are a central part of Britain and being British.

So, undoubtedly, there is a powerful intrinsic argument to be made for support for the arts, heritage and sport. But the case does not start and stop there… we can also point to evidence of the myriad benefits that these activities can help secure.

Instrumental arguments

Whether we are talking about economic, educative, health or community benefits, there is a clear and compelling case to be made. If I may, I’d like to give you a few brief examples to illustrate this.

The economic case is captured here in Portsmouth. The new Mary Rose museum has only been open for nine months but has already attracted more than a quarter of a million people.

Similarly in Wakefield, the council has invested and has been rewarded by half a million people visiting The Hepworth Wakefield in its first year. This has contributed around £10 million to the local economy.

Yorkshire will also host the opening stages of this year’s Tour de France – an event which should bring millions of pounds in for the local area.

The educational benefits of both the arts and sport have been well demonstrated. Not only can sport be used as a hook to keep children engaged in education but sport programmes have been shown to improve the learning performance of young people. And recent survey data shows that those participating in the arts are much more likely to claim that they are ‘very likely’ to go on to further education.

In health, the sporting case is obvious but I’ve been struck by emerging evidence about the positive impact culture can have on physical and mental health.

A 2007 report from UCL, commissioned by my department and the Department for Health, showed that arts participation lead to mental health improvements.

Both culture and sport are proven to help increase motivation, inspire hope, provide relaxation and reduce the symptoms of depression.

And the case in terms of physical health is equally compelling. Physical activity is linked to a reduced risk of 20 illnesses, including cardiovascular disease and even cancer. Regular sports activity is estimated to save thousands of pounds per person in healthcare costs over a lifetime.

And an interesting piece of research to be published shortly – again commissioned by my department –shows that people who had engaged with the arts were also more likely to report good physical health than those who had not.

Again this can mean big savings for the NHS. In fact, taken together, this research suggests potential annual savings of more than £3 billion thanks to activity in the arts and sport.

And I am delighted that cCLOA (Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association) will publish guidance tomorrow on the vital role of culture and leisure in improving the health and wellbeing of local communities.


But perhaps the most compelling of the so-called instrumental arguments for culture – and one which I think clearly marries the intrinsic value with the instrumental benefits – is the way in which it can bring people and communities together.

A great example of this is to be found in the amazing work of East Lindsey, who have transformed Skegness through a cultural programme, centred on the now-regular SO Festival. Yes this has a big economic impact on the local area, but more importantly, it has helped bring the local community together and allowed them to get behind what they, quite rightly, see as their event.

This idea – that culture brings people together, instils civic pride and lifts the spirits – is one of the main reasons why the City of Culture competition has been such a success. .

We saw this take place in Derry-Londonderry last year and the omens are very good indeed for Hull when they take on the mantle in 2017.

I was delighted to hear that when Crystal Palace supporters recently travelled to Hull for a Premier League match, they were greeted by home fans chanting ‘You’re only here for the culture’.

And undoubtedly sporting success – whether that is through a local team or thanks to inspirational local stars such as Jessica Ennis Hill from Sheffield or Nicola Adams from Leeds – can have a huge impact on a local community.

Sir Tom Finney, who passed away just last month, is a perfect example of how sporting excellence, civic pride and loyalty to a local community can have a resonance long after a sporting career is over. Described by Bill Shankly as “the greatest player to ever play the game” he never thought of leaving his home-town club, Preston North End, and his funeral last week quite literally brought that town to a standstill.

So these factors – economic benefit, civic pride, educational achievement and health benefits – should be central to our case when we argue for investment in culture, sport and heritage.

But it is also important to remind ourselves of the intrinsic value of these activities. And to remember that making these instrumental arguments does not contradict a belief in an intrinsic value. Put simply, there can be instrumental benefits without compromising intrinsic value.

What we’re doing in Central Government

In central Government we believe in both the intrinsic and instrumental potential of the arts, heritage and sport. And we have therefore done all we can to protect these sectors despite the tough times we find ourselves in.

At the last Spending Round, we only passed on a five per cent reduction to the arts, museums and sport. This was a far lower reduction than for many other sectors.

And, we increased the shares of Lottery income going to the arts, heritage and sport from 16 per cent to 20 per cent.

This means hundreds of millions of pounds of extra Lottery funding for these sectors over the course of this parliament.

I am proud of this record. But I don’t agree with those who seem to think funding is the be all and end all. After all, it is true that – in real terms – funding has fallen for arts over the last few years. Yet participation in the arts has gone up over the same period. It is currently at an all-time high with almost 4 in 5 adults participating in the arts last year.

And since London was awarded the Olympics in 2005, the number of people participating in sport has gone up by 1.5 million.

If we can do more for less, we always should….. In local government you know that better than most.

The important role of local authorities

The role you play in providing cultural, heritage and sporting services up and down this country is vital. You are the largest funders of culture. In fact, you spent almost £4 billion on cultural and related services – including sport – last year. Clearly, you are the backbone of support for these areas.

But you, like us in central Government, are having to think differently these days. Budgets are tight and choices have to be made – prioritisation is the name of the game.

But what local authorities have also proved is that reduced spending doesn’t have to mean public dissatisfaction. In fact, the LGA’s own research shows that overall satisfaction amongst the public with the way their local council runs things remains high, with almost three-quarters of people fairly or very satisfied. This, I think, is a pretty clear indication that customer satisfaction is not just a matter of funding – it is also about how things are done and how services are provided.


As I have travelled the country, I have been really encouraged to see how local authorities are innovating to reduce costs and to deliver services more effectively.

These innovations include establishing charitable trusts, creating mutuals, outsourcing, and sharing services across a number of LA areas.

For example Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery have joined forces with Thinktank and Birmingham Science Museum, to form ‘Birmingham Museums’, the UK’s largest independent museums trust.

Luton Cultural Services Trust – a registered charity – who manage 12 venues and provide cultural services across Luton. And Hampshire County Council, with Winchester City Council, have developed a new charitable trust to support arts and museums in the county.

So partnerships are being established. And I think they spell a very exciting way forward, working within the grain of how culture works in this country.

After all, culture is not a monolithic, state-controlled entity. It is delivered by many organisations. These partnerships reflect that.

Arts Council England and the national tourist board, VisitEngland, work together to boost cultural tourism in England making £3 million available to local culture and tourism partnerships.

Universities are forming partnerships with cultural organisations. For example, “Evolve” at the University of Derby offers support and space to new and growing businesses, and the University is a vital supporter of the theatre in Derby.

And I’m very pleased to see so many of our National Cultural institutions, including those funded by central Government, working in partnership across the country.

National institutions reaching out

Digital technology, in particular, is providing new ways to extend the reach of our national institutions. These days the amazing productions that are thrilling audiences at the National Theatre on London’s South Bank are also being broadcast to cinemas all over the country. Barn-storming performances like James Corden’s in ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’, or Adrian Lester’s stunning handling of ‘Othello’ can now be enjoyed by audiences right across the UK.

Then there’s the Plus Tate network which aims to support the development of the visual arts across the UK. Tate contributes resources to help create a network of organisations – 18 so far – who share ideas and expertise, as well as programmes and collections for the benefit of the wider public.

This is good for Tate because it expands its reach and expertise, and great for people outside the immediate orbit of Tate’s main galleries by increasing public access to the national collection of British and international modern and contemporary art. More than 3.5 million people have visited the shared collections since it began.

Tate also administers the spectacularly successful ‘Artist Rooms’ programme which has reached almost 30 million visitors in scores of exhibitions at museums and galleries in all corners of the UK. This programme means these works can dazzle… inspire… and make hearts sing in so many more places.

Tate is not the only national institution operating nationally, of course. To take just one other example The Roman Empire: Power and People is a British Museum touring exhibition developed with Bristol Museum and Arts Gallery, which is visiting Norwich Castle, Coventry, Leeds, Dundee and Wallsend.

This is the way of the future and I believe this sort of activity will help extend regional organisation’s reach far wider than ever before.

The balance of regional cultural funding

I know that the current balance of funding is being questioned at the moment – in particular people ask if the capital gets more than its fair share?

Well my view is that London’s international reputation for excellence in both culture and sport, and its appeal to tourists from around the globe, is extraordinarily valuable

There is a debate to be had about the relationship between the capital and the regions but it’s worth remembering that London is a gateway to the UK and it benefits all of us, no matter where we live.

I would rather people outside London did not see themselves as competing with the capital. Instead, I would prefer it if people think of London’s cultural offer as providing a rising tide which carries all ships.

This includes the partnership work that the capital’s institutions should focus on round the country.

It is true that half the inbound visits to the UK are to London, but this last year has seen big increases in visitor numbers and spending in other parts of England and the rest of the UK by overseas visitors.

So the evidence suggests that we are seeing more and more visitors going through the gateway and seeing what the rest of the country has to offer.

The GREAT campaign has played a big part in this. It showcases the very best of our country. And it won’t surprise any of you here today that the imagery the GREAT campaign consistently uses is from your sectors. The worlds of culture, the creative industries, heritage and sport.


So, when you campaign to the public – and to central Government, of course – on behalf of the arts, heritage, sports and tourism, you are doing so very much within the grain of our thinking. We believe that these sectors are at the heart of a free and dynamic society. We believe they are the cornerstone of what central and local government do. And what people care about. The public’s appetite for these sectors is obvious and shows no sign of diminishing,

Whilst public finances remain extremely tight, central Government’s support for these sectors is assured. And I know the same is true for all good local authorities.

What we need to do now, and in the future, is to keep forging partnerships…to continue championing the intrinsic value of the arts…. as well as the amazing things culture and sport can help achieve…and to take pride in the fact that we are all working in some of the most exciting, creative and valuable areas that this country has to offer.