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Sun 25 October 2020
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The Government’s new bid to save cultural institutions is heavily concentrated in the South of England, reports Sam Bright

The first raft of Government cash handed out to heritage organisations, to help them weather the Coronavirus pandemic, has again left behind the North and Midlands.

Byline Times has analysed the initial list of recipients that will benefit from a combined £67 million of Government funding, and found a stark geographical disparity.

Indeed, roughly 65% of the organisations are based in the South, with only 35% working in the North or the Midlands. This is despite the imposition of tougher lockdown restrictions in the North and Midlands in recent weeks – limiting attendance to the churches, castles and historic sites that have been granted cash by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

In total, the Government intends to spend £1.57 billion on a ‘Cultural Recovery Fund’ to prop up the sector. “Heritage organisations across the country are set to receive a lifesaving financial boost,” the Government press release reads.

However, this initial funding injection suggests its distribution will merely reinforce England’s regional divides.


Nowt for the North

This news will undoubtedly add to the despondency of local leaders. Indeed, a report in the Times of London on Wednesday suggested the Government will force bars, pubs and restaurants in large parts of the North to close on Monday.

The areas poised to enter the strict lockdown are experiencing a dramatic increase in Coronavirus cases. The North West, for example, is poised to match peak April levels of hospitalisations by the end of October, with Health Minister Nadine Dorries yesterday saying that the virus is on the brink of being “out of control”.

Regional leaders claim they only heard the news about tougher lockdown measures via the Times, and have slated the Government for not treating them – and the people they represent – with enough respect.

“It does feel increasingly to people that we’re being treated with contempt in the North of England,” Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said on BBC’s Question Time yesterday.

Burnham also raised concerns about the previous tranche of Government measures, including the 10pm curfew imposed on pubs, bars and restaurants – saying the people of the North had been treated like guinea pigs for the Prime Minister’s harebrained ideas.

Boris Johnson has been asked repeatedly to release the science that justifies the 10pm curfew, after flocks of people have been seen piling onto public transport at closing hour, to no avail. This curfew cynicism has, for the minute, built an unusual alliance between the Labour Party and Conservative backbenchers, the latter of whom are generally resistant towards further lockdown measures.

Labour, meanwhile, says it merely wants lockdown measures that work – in combination with economic support for those affected.

In relation to the economics, at least where the Government’s cultural recovery cash is concerned, it seems the North is being left out in the cold yet again.


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