The Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), a free-market think tank, has proposed that to close down the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) would save £1.6 billion. Never mind the irony of the Olympic host axing its sporting ministry at the same time as the Games, it's also a useful indication of how the culture sector is regarded by some. It's another nice effort to block social mobility and reduce quality of life in the UK, the meat of the argument being that, if we all like visiting the British Library and other subsidised institutions, then we'll all be happy to pay a fee at the door.
But it's actually more than this, because £1.6 billion is really small change - the IEA recommendations have less to do with cutting Government waste by axing the DCMS than they do with simply cutting off funding to cultural institutions - why destroy mass access to a cultural education for such paltry savings? According to the report, the Government could use all this saved money to "reduce the rate of corporation tax by a further 2%", or more inspiringly, "cut fuel duty by 3p". It's not even only those without money who would be effected, but surely most of the population - my household income is pretty decent by most standards, but living in London with a child we simply avoid a number of cultural sites that we would otherwise go to because of the costs involved, frequenting the free venues instead. It just goes to show the extent to which cultural institutions have to nail their value proposition. I don't know how mainstream this IEA sentiment is, but with this Government's emphasis on big business, the culture sector will continue to have to stand up to this kind of hard-nosed free-market economics.