Ahead of the Budget, the advocacy organization National Campaign for the Arts has its bi-annual report out, on the health of UK arts funding. The 2017 Arts Index has been updated with statistics from 2014/15 and 2015/16.

Note that they’ve translated all their figures into “per person”, which means the ever-rising UK population will appear to be constantly diluting arts funding — even if the actual cash figure remains static.

But even with that jiggery-pokery going on, and the inevitable shakiness of most of the inputs, they still can’t avoid painting a picture which has far more positives than negatives. The dips are of course in terms of Treasury tax-payer inputs, and the many local councils who have made grand-standing decisions to ‘cut all the arts, and blame the Tories’ in recent years. But such dips and cuts have actually been useful in one way, in that they have forced arts organizations at all levels to successfully diversify their income streams, as well as trimming their excess staffing, making workers more productive, and cutting wasteful spending.

Which means that the picture painted by the 2017 Arts Index report is very far from a smoking barren wasteland, of the sort leftists predicted for the end of a decade of Great Recession.

* “Combined expenditure of revenue funded arts organizations per person” is way up…

* Across the wider spectrum of the arts, ‘earned income’, personal business sponsorship, trust income and are all strongly up. Cash reserves are also up at arts organizations.

* ‘Individual giving’ to the arts has strongly soared since 2014. Part of that will be crowd-funding, no doubt. Possibly also the impact of a rising population of the elderly — meaning more bequests in their wills.

* National Lottery income (they didn’t consider other Lottery distributors to arts projects, for some reason) is shown to have risen per-person from 2013-2016, despite recent media alarmism about an apparent decline in Lottery receipts (due to private gambling and local lottery competitors, it seems).

* Arts attendance as a proportion of the population is only two points lower than it was in 2007, despite the diluting nature of an ever-rising UK population. And despite the big rise in ticket and transport prices since 2007. Among disabled people, attendance appears to be marginally up — but up in a way that’s been sustained across the last four years.

* Corporate business contributions appear to have settled back down to only slightly below their pre-Olympics levels, after a big rise in 2012 (the ‘Olympics sponsorship rise’).

* There has been a decline in kids taking dedicated creative arts GCSEs at school. But the percentage drop is small — 6.7% of all kids took such specialist GCSEs in 2007, compared to 5.3% in 2016. But factor in the dramatic rise in the school age population from 2012-2017, today we probably have just as many ‘arts GCSE’ kids available to employers and universities as there were in 2007, in terms of the simple numbers walking out of the school gates for the last time. The quality of those students is likely up, too, since there are probably now less disruptive and time-sapping ‘duffers’ being shoved into the arts classes ‘because they can’t do anything else, and it’s the easy option for them’.

* “Higher education students studying creative arts as a percentage of population” is only one point lower than it was in 2007, despite all the politicized hoo-ha over tuition fees.

* The GVA of the UK’s creative industries have been doing very well since the Olympics. The measurable employment is way up…