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


Memorandum submitted by Mr Robin Guthrie, Chair of Yorkshire Arts and English Regional Arts Boards


  "If Regional Arts Associations did not exist in all parts of England and Wales we would have to invent them. Such invention would be difficult, and impossible for any central body such as the Arts Council of Great Britain or the Welsh Arts Council to achieve. Certainly neither Parliament nor Whitehall could create bodies such as the present RAAs: only people in the regions could do that. And fortunately these people have already created them." (Lord Redcliffe-Maud Support for the Arts in England and Wales 1976.)

  The Regional Arts Boards of today are the direct successors of the Regional Arts Associations to which Lord Redcliffe-Maud referred. The Arts Council has unilaterally proposed to abolish them. This gives rise to certain questions, which demand an answer.

  1.  What analysis was made of the arts funding structure in place at the beginning of 2001?

  2.  Where is the case for change spelt out?

  3.   With whom was it discussed?

  4.  What alternatives were considered and discussed?

  5.  What account was taken of the proposals for change and improvement made over several years by the RABs themselves?

  6.  When Mr Robinson announced his proposals he referred to the fact that the local authorities contribute by subscription some 3 per cent of RAB expenditure. Was he not aware of the fact that the local authorities contribute some 50 per cent of the public funding of the arts across the country, and that their subscriptions to the RABs, modest in themselves, lock them into the national funding system?

  7.  Did Mr Robinson really think that it was logistically possible to wind up 10 independent charitable companies and merge them into the Arts Council in six weeks? What has been his experience since? (And it is not for want of co-operation by the RABs themselves, which has been generously and magnanimously given.)

  8.  What relation do the Arts Council's proposals bear to Government policies for regional development? In particular, what role is seen for the Regional Cultural Consortia, the Regional Development Agencies and the Regional Assemblies to be proposed in a forthcoming White Paper? How does scrapping the Regional Arts Boards fit with these proposals? How does it compare with developments in parallel fields such as sport and film?

  9.  Where are the results of the two consultations documented? Were the new proposals massively endorsed? Why did the Secretary of State endorse the proposals "unequivocally" before the public consultation about them?

  10.  What is the change costing, in terms of

    (a)  money?

    (b)  distraction of all those in the system from the business of supporting the arts to essentially organisational and bureaucratic issues?

  11.  How many consultants have been engaged, and at what cost?

  12.  Where will the proposed savings of £8-10 million come from?

  13.  How far were the savings promised by Mr Robinson in 1998 achieved?

  14.  Where is the organisation structure, and where are the business plan and budget for the new organisation?

  15.  With whom is the proposed new Royal Charter being discussed? When might the Privy Council endorse it? To what extent will it incorporate the objectives of the current regional arts boards so that they can in good conscience surrender their responsibilities as charity trustees to an organisation over which they will have no control?

10 January 2002

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