Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Resource


  1.1  Resource: the Council for Museums, Archives & Libraries, is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, with a remit to provide strategic guidance, advice and advocacy across the whole of Government on museum, archive and library matters. Resource was created as a new body in April 2000, assuming responsibility for staff and functions of the former Library & Information Commission and Museums and Galleries Commission. Resource's vision is of museums, archives and libraries belonging at the very heart of people's lives—contributing to their enjoyment and inspiration, cultural values, learning potential, economic prosperity and social equity.

  1.2  The essence of our submission is:

    —  Resource is committed to improving the experience of those who use our museums, archives and libraries.

    —  The National Lottery has been hugely beneficial in allowing much of the sector to expand and develop its services.

    —  The contribution that the sector makes to education, lifelong learning, social inclusion and economic regeneration makes it a sound investment for Lottery money.

    —  There is considerable scope for extending Lottery funding to the further benefit of museum, archive and library users, and Resource is well placed to advise on this.

    —  There is a need to encourage a more strategic approach to the setting of funding priorities.

    —  In particular, the growth of hybrid services will necessitate new flexibility in Lottery funding if future innovative funding propositions are to be accommodated effectively.


  2.1  As the principal advisory body to Government for the museums, libraries and archives (MLA) sector, Resource welcomes this opportunity to submit evidence to the Select Committee. We have confined our comments to the last issue that the Committee will be investigating, namely:

    The level of funds for the good causes raised by the National Lottery and the distribution of those funds between the good causes, including whether the existing good causes should be reviewed, whether some should be dropped and/or whether new good causes should be introduced.

  2.2  At the heart of our mission is a "strong commitment to improve the experience of those who currently use our museums, archives and libraries and those who will do so in the future" (Resource Manifesto, foreword). Our interest is, therefore, primarily in the work of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the New Opportunities Fund. However, we would also envisage Arts Council funding playing a larger part in this sector, bearing in mind changing patterns of public service delivery, leading to the development of more hybrid services which cannot be effectively supported under current Lottery funding structures. (We return to this in section 5.5 below.)


  3.1  The National Lottery was established to make a difference to the quality of people's lives. There is no question that the MLA sector does precisely that—whether it is a museum that can introduce people at first hand to the influences that have shaped our environment, society, culture and economy; an archive that allows individuals to research family or community histories; or a library that offers opportunities for people to pursue personal interests or self-directed learning opportunities. Lottery funding has allowed much of the sector to develop and expand its services to meet the needs and aspirations of 21st Century citizens.

  3.2  Recent examples of such funding include the £20 million New Opportunities Fund support for the training of public library staff in information and communication technology and reader development, and Heritage Lottery Fund money for projects as varied as the £12 million Neptune Court project at the National Maritime Museum or the much more modest £12,750 awarded to Sussex University to expand its collection of Kipling memorabilia. Overall, the Lottery's beneficial impact on the MLA sector has been considerable, resulting in around £170 million of new investment in public libraries, £95 million in documentary heritage and nearly £600 million in museums and collections.

  3.3  All this is completely outside what can be achieved through core funding for day-to-day activities, where all three domains face constant challenges maintaining viable services that are increasingly subject to the requirements of the Best Value regime. Fiscal considerations at local and national level will always mean that non-statutory public services such as museums and archives will be underfunded. Even statutory services such as public libraries struggle to fulfil the twin demands of service delivery and capital renewal.

  3.4  Generally speaking, cultural bodies cannot invest in the development necessary to realise their potential for the benefit of the public. At capital level this can lead to a long-term and serious barrier to those bodies being accessible and able to deliver social and economic benefits. The Lottery has enabled both types of impediment to be effectively tackled for the first time. Although it is early days to measure or evaluate the impact of this investment, there are already examples to show what can be achieved. That impact will be accumulative and can be achieved with minimum political controversy.


  4.1  We agree wholeheartedly with the Select Committee's concern for upholding the principle that Lottery funding should not be a substitute for adequate core public spending. Nevertheless, there is much that it can still achieve for the benefit of museums, libraries, archives and their users. Heritage was included as an original "good cause" at the inception of the Lottery in 1994 because of years of acknowledged underfunding in this area. There was also an explicit understanding of the importance of heritage in improving the quality of people's lives. This perceived importance has if anything increased over time. Demand and expectations have increased—no more so than where Lottery investment has occurred. Museums, archives and libraries are key parts of our social fabric where investment—particularly capital investment—has been inadequate for many years. In particular, museums and archives are not protected by statute and therefore necessarily represent a low priority for tax-based expenditure.

  4.2  Nevertheless they are an immensely valuable national resource. Museums, archives and libraries form a national network, whose presence throughout the whole country can modify the undue cultural dominance exercised by, say, London or Edinburgh and can strengthen business and community development, economic growth and tourism throughout the regions. Their contribution to local and regional quality of life is critical. They provide excellent links between local authorities and voluntary or charitable organisations. They can provide a platform for the delivery of social or economic services at local level, and contribute to education, lifelong learning, social inclusion and economic regeneration. Together, these things make museums, archives and libraries a sound investment for Lottery money.

  4.3  Despite significant capital investment in buildings, equipment, content and infrastructure in recent years, much still remains to be done. The Needs Assessment study of museums and galleries, currently being concluded by Resource and the Heritage Lottery Fund, had identified a further £800 million of essential capital works, largely in the regions. This represents, at current rates of investment, at least another 10 years' work for the HLF. A capital needs survey undertaken by the Society of Chief Librarians in 1994 identified £612 million of capital work that needed to be undertaken in England and Wales over a five year period simply to keep public library building stock up to a reasonable standard. Other work conducted by the Public Record Office on mapping the needs of archives will show the clear impact that HLF funding has had on the delivery of archival services to the public. It will also show, however, that very significant sums are still required to meet the needs of users in 21st Century.

  4.4  We appreciate that the Select Committee is well aware of this. We agree with the Committee that the scale of investment in the cultural heritage by the Heritage Lottery Fund has been impressive, but that there is no basis whatsoever for thinking that the needs of the cultural heritage have in any sense been met. And we concur wholeheartedly with your comment that:

    The creation of a heritage "good cause" as one of the beneficiaries of the National Lottery has provided a welcome, additional dimension to public provision for the heritage. That provision has gone some way to remedy the legacies of underfunding and incoherence in public support for the heritage. The Heritage Lottery Fund has achieved much in its early years. In some ways its task is becoming more difficult as the full extent of needs becomes apparent and demand increases.

House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee Report on The Heritage Lottery Fund, 4 February 1999.


  5.1  Both HLF and the New Opportunities Fund have been considerable benefactors to museums, libraries and archives, and the time is now right to consider the future pattern of Lottery funding for these increasingly significant services. We appreciate, of course, that the Select Committee reviewed HLF as recently as last year and acknowledged its effectiveness. Programmes such as the Museums & Galleries Access Fund or support for coal mining museums and coal industry heritage in general have not only benefited the institutions directly but also provided support for wider policy priorities. We would hope, therefore, that HLF will be able to continue its funding activities on behalf of museums and collections and of documentary heritage.

  5.2  Furthermore we believe that there is scope for extending Lottery funding, to develop non-core (ie non statutory) elements of the public library service, and also to meet capital spending needs that it is unrealistic to expect library authorities to fund directly. Examples of non-core activity suitable for funding might include development of local studies programmes, fostering educational links or facilitating the sector's community role and outreach services. (It would be very helpful if this spending could be supported by Lottery funding through the development of joint programmes with the relevant funders.) In addition, it is not currently possible (and, under the principle of additionality, may not even be desirable) for HLF to fund purchase of public library book stocks. However, it could perhaps be invited to promote its role in funding local studies libraries which hold real heritage information, rather than just current books about the area.

  5.3  In its recent Report on Public Libraries, the Select Committee recommended that "the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as a matter of urgency should allocate funding of libraries to a specific National Lottery fund". We certainly support the concept of additional funding for the library service, and would be happy to consider the opportunities that such a fund might present. Issues for discussion might include the extension of the People's Network to museums and archives, the development of the Web-based cultural portal, and the funding issues raised as libraries extend increasingly beyond their statutory responsibilities into non-core services, as outlined in section 5.2 above.

  5.4  Currently, Resource is actively involved in assisting both NOF and HLF to develop their policy towards museums, archives and libraries, and this reflects the increasing need for a far more strategic approach to Lottery funding in general. For example, the extensive media coverage given to flagship projects in London, such as the Tate Modern, Somerset House or the Dulwich Picture Gallery, diverts attention from the fact that many smaller museums and galleries outside London, often housing designated collections of national importance, are struggling financially. Such institutions frequently lose out in the competition for additional funding too, because they do not have the time or resources to devote to developing speculative Lottery bids. The DCMS Quality, Efficiency and Standards team has recently identified a number of difficulties that smaller institutions face when applying for Lottery funding. We maintain that much more fairness could be introduced into the process if a more strategic approach were taken.

  5.5  The NOF funding of public library networking and staff training demonstrates how Lottery money can be used effectively to deliver a one-off capital investment programme across the whole country. The need for such a strategic approach will grow as changing patterns of wider public service delivery necessitate more general co-ordination between the Lottery funding bodies, and a more flexible approach to imaginative funding propositions that do not fall comfortably into any one funder's remit. The trend towards co-ordination in cultural services will lead to more hybrid service provision (eg libraries as venues for the performing arts, museums for formal education, archives for Internet access). Changes in current Lottery funding rules are likely to be needed if the innovative funding applications that will result from such developments are to be accommodated successfully.


  6.1  We very much welcome the opportunity to put these views before you, and would be delighted to supplement our comments with oral evidence if you thought that would be helpful.

October 2000

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 12 March 2001