The chairman of the Arts Council England has defended its spending in Bradford during a visit to the city.
Sir Peter Bazalgette was today given a tour of some of Bradford’s big-hitting cultural venues, such as St George’s Hall, City Park and Mind the Gap Studios, as well as meeting local up-and-coming arts groups.
He was invited to the district by Bradford Council’s culture chief, Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, who is lobbying for Bradford to get more arts funding.
The Arts Council has recently been accused of not giving Bradford its fair share of funding, with more cash going to larger cities like Leeds.
But Sir Peter said it wasn’t fair to make a “postcode analysis” and that in the past few years, the Arts Council had received far fewer grant bids from arts groups in Bradford than from those in Leeds.
He said: “We have to invest public money, whether it is Lottery or taxpayers’ money, wisely and that means we need really good, ambitious arts organisations to invest the money in. They need to be there, and they need to apply.”
Sir Peter said visiting Bradford and talking to Coun Hinchcliffe about her ambitions for the district had been “really encouraging”.
He said: “It seems to me that the city is now taking arts and culture more seriously than it has in the past, and seeing what its power can be.”
But he said local authorities were under “huge pressure” from central government cuts and the Arts Council couldn’t make up the shortfall if they cut their arts spending.
He said: “Over the last three years, up to March 2013, Leeds has actually increased its spending in arts and culture and Bradford - I understand it is under huge pressure - but Bradford cut it.
“I am sure they have had to cut a lot of services and they are having to make some difficult decisions, so I am very sympathetic.
“Very often we co-fund arts organisations, and if local authorities cut their funding we can’t replace it because we have been cut as well.”
Coun Hinchcliffe agreed that getting more Bradford groups to apply for funding should be a priority.
She said: “What we need to work harder on is encouraging those organisations who might not have thought of applying for funding to put a bid in.”