Peter Bazalgette, the Arts Council and their awesome responsibility to spend taxpayers' money wisely

June 19, 2014 7:14 PM

Sir Peter Bazalgette, the chair of the Arts Council England, yesterday told a Centre for Policy Studies conference that the Government should continue give taxpayers' cash to his organisation because the money is necessary to spend on 'risky' art projects.

In other words, there are projects that profit-seeking companies and arts charities funded by charges and donations would see as a waste of their scarce resources. But this poor value for money isn't a concern if it's only taxpayers who will have to pay.

Bazalgette isn't a poor man. For his chairmanship of the Arts Council, the annual report showed that he received £40,000 in 2012-13. He's also a non-executive director of ITV plc, for which he received another £35,000 in 2013. As non-executive director of YouGov plc, he received another £32,917 in the year ending 31 July 2013. In addition, he enjoys several other interests and has had a successful career in television, most notably at Endemol, creating Big Brother.

So why does he insist that these projects must be paid for by people who don't necessarily want to pay for them, most of whom earn much, much less than he does? Shouldn't they instead be funded by people like him who think they're a good idea? When people on modest incomes struggle to make ends meet thanks to crushing tax burdens are still having to pay tax and when the Government is running up an enormous deficit, the case for wasting other people's money on 'risky' projects becomes even weaker.

When people want to spend taxpayers' money, there is an awesome responsibility to ensure that it isn't wasted. There are good reasons to spend taxpayers' money on a variety of causes. But something being 'risky' isn't one of them. If people want something 'risky' funded, they should offer their own money, not someone else's.

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