Recreation, Culture and Religion - Forward Thinking, Progressive for all

Last updated: 7th September 2016

George Eastman: “What we do during our working hours determines what we have; what we do in our leisure hours determines what we are”.

Why Recreation, Culture and Religion Spending Matters

Public spending on recreation, culture and religion has been strongly challenged in recent years but in 2015 was £11.9 billion, equivalent to 1.6% of total Government spending.

Recreation, Culture and Religion Spending, 2010-11 to 2014-15 (£ Million)

recreation culture and religion spending

Source:  HM Treasury

UK spending is below the European average on recreation, culture and religion. In both recreation and arts the UK enjoys a worldwide reputation, and these are major exports.

International Benchmarks of Public Spending on Recreation, Culture and Religion, 2014 (% of GDP and % of Total Government Spend)

recreation culture and religion spending UK and Europe

Source:  Eurostat

Broadcasting and publishing spending has been increased in recent years making it the largest investment area:

Breakdown of Recreation, Culture and Religion Spending, 2014-15 (£ billion)

recreation culture and religion spending segmentation

Source:  HM Treasury

It is possible to place this breakdown in an international context and the UK is a low spender in each sector:

International Breakdown of Recreation, Culture and Religion Spending, 2014 (% of Total Public Spending)

recreation culture and religion spending segmentation UK and Europe

Source:  Eurostat

Cultural spending has been gradually reduced, while recreational and sporting services spending is more erratic, with the influence of international sporting events hosted in the UK. There has been a change in the role of spending on broadcasting and publishing:

Trend in Recreation, Culture and Religion Spending, 2010-11 to 2014-15 (£ Million)

recreation culture and religion spending trends

Source:  HM Treasury

Forward Thinking Policies on Recreation, Culture and Religion

Television license fees are not strictly a tax, but the almost universal ownership of televisions means that it is all but a tax to households. The BBC gained £3.726 billion in 2014 from license fees and added a further £1.34 billion through commercial activities and grant aid for the World Service. There is no reason the total income could not be earned through commercial methods in the way that other commercial stations do. Forward Thinking believes that this is an issue on which the public should voice their opinion. There are three possibilities:

  • Keep the TV licence as it is
  • BBC income funded publicly, with the fee replaced and income is taken from taxes
  • The BBC funds itself commercially

Forward Thinking believes the BBC should continue to be publically funded. Revenues should come from tax rather than a flat license fee. This will save collection costs and because televisions are almost universally owned, the tax payment is fairer if taken from progressive taxes than a flat fee.

The UK is a multicultural and multi-faith country, yet large parts of the population have no religious faith. Forward Thinking believes there should be no compulsory contribution to religion in taxes, and the public should, as in many other countries, have the chance to ‘opt out’ of the religious part of tax. This can only apply to direct taxes.

The 2014 British Social Attitudes Survey found that 58.4% of the population never attend religious services while only 13.1% of people report going to a religious service once a week or more. Of the 16% of people who define themselves as belonging to the Church of England, 51.9% never attend services. Only 10.7% of people who identify with the Church of England report attending church at least weekly. The 2014 BSA Survey discovered that 58.3% of people who were brought up in a religion never attend services, and only 12.8% do so weekly.

A 2012 YouGov poll found that 67% of people do not think that religion should play any role in public life. In June 2014, an Opinium poll found that 58% of the British public opposes state-funded ‘faith’ schools, with just 30% accepting state funding.

These statistics do not support the continued role of the Church of England in the House of Lords.

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