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


Memorandum submitted by David Powell Associates


  I am writing in my personal capacity, as someone who has worked in the arts and around the arts funding community in the UK for 30 years. For 15 years I was a Director of Inter-Action Trust, a national arts organisation which pioneered much innovative and effective arts work in education and in neighbourhood regeneration. I direct a private company—which I set up 10 years ago—which offers research, business and development services in the creative and cultural sector and to public authorities in many parts of the country. I am Chairman of the Board of Camden Arts Centre, which has an international reputation for its work with visual artists in education in the visual arts, and which is substantially funded both by its Regional Arts Board and the Arts Council. However, for this purpose, I write on my own behalf and in a personal capacity.

  My questions are prompted by a desire to look for clear evidence:

    —  that the Arts Council's proposed reforms have been carefully planned and costed;

    —  that they will deliver additional money and professional support more simply and more effectively to artists and arts organisations;

    —  and that they will preserve one of the great strengths of the current system which is to enable diversity of initiative, culture and voice.


  The Arts Council has from the outset said that the reforms will save administration costs of between £8 and £10 million per annum, which would be routed directly into the support of artists, arts projects and arts organisations.

    —  How have these figures been derived? Can we be assured that the process which the Arts Council has put itself through in planning this initiative have been no less rigorous than those which it requires of its funded organisations?

    —  Arts Council and, to a more modest extent, Regional Arts Board salaries are far in excess of those which even reasonably well funded arts organisations can afford for management and related skills and experience. Can the Arts Council demonstrate not just that its overall salary bill will come down and that there will be fewer people working in the arts funding system, but that the salary levels of those in the proposed arrangements—particularly at the senior levels—will not continue to increase out of all proportion to salaries in the funded arts sector itself?


    —  What strategies and procedures are proposed that will deliver this additional money directly and more simply to artists and arts organisations?

    —  Can the Arts Council guarantee that savings of at least this level will be delivered to the arts directly year on year?


    —  How can we ensure that the arts funding system has a really robust presence at a regional level of government and resource allocation and with local government, where so much matched funding is now derived?

    —  How can the Arts Council's proposals to centralise its chain of management and command be squared with the Government's intentions to strengthen effective regional public administration?

  The proposed savings are around 5 per cent of the Arts Council's current annual budget (£8-10 million: £400 million). The effect of the Arts Council's poor preparation and presentation of its proposals will lead to at least two years when the best minds in the system are focused on their own internal processes. I am surprised that so much potential disruption has been initiated for such a small benefit. Any arts organisation conducting itself like that should be severely taken to task and, sooner rather than later, should be required to put its own house in order or have its funding cut and used for better purposes.

  Ironically, in this kind of circumstance, such a course of corrective action would most likely only have happened in the six or seven regions with effective, well managed and clear sighted regional arts boards. However, it seems that it is the effective operation of just these bodies which is most under threat from the current proposals. It is with real regret that I find myself quite unconvinced that the Arts Council's proposals, left unchallenged and unchanged, will enhance the good practice to be found in the current system.

  It is widely acknowledged that many of the problems with delivering effective, transparent, and "user-friendly" grants, awards and professional support emanate from the Arts Council rather than the regional arts boards. The proposed remedy for this therefore seems disproportionate and ill targeted. It is inexcusable that it has been as badly planned and promoted as it appears to have been.

  I would hope that the Arts Council will be examined closely on these matters as I understand that they go to the heart of the commitments which the Arts Council have made to ministers and to the arts community. I would submit that members, ministers, artists and the public at large now have an expectation that these commitments should be stated unequivocally and delivered quickly, transparently and effectively. I would suggest that, before any irrevocable or precipitate ion is undertaken, a thorough review of the Arts Council's prospectus be required, including a comparison of its proposals against credible alternative propositions in order to examine which presents the best option for artists and arts organisations.

  I trust that these matters will coincide with your Committee's concern's on this important matter, and will be happy to assist further if that would help.

10 January 2002

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