Memorandum submitted by Helix Arts
ARTS COUNCIL AND REGIONAL ARTS BOARDS: WORKING
TOGETHER FOR THE ARTS
We are writing in response to a request for
written evidence from any interested party on the plans for the
proposed reform of the Arts Council's document titled "Working
together for the arts".
We are very concerned about the proposal for
a single national agency for the arts, in particular in relation
to the potential loss of regional autonomy. We fear that power
over national policy and strategy could still be retained by the
national office, and that the term "devolution" could
be meaningless without safeguards to protect regional autonomy,
At Board levelwill local authorities
feel the same sense of "ownership"?
In decision-makingwith common
investment programmes throughout England, will each region be
in a position to develop its own distinctive policies and programmes?
For example, how does their commitment to devolution equate to
the fact that they are already suggesting priorities for the allocation
of flexible funds?
That regional advisers could be led
by the priorities of an advisor from national office?
How central Arts Council officers
could obtain an adequate regional knowledge-base to agree regional
priorities and grants?
Has no cost benefit analysis been undertaken
before such far-reaching decisions were made? We have not seen
evidence on the proposed savings in operating costs by the new
organisation nor an evaluation of the alternative costings on
retaining and reforming the Regional Arts Boards.
We feel that this proposal runs counter to the
direction of other government policy, which is encouraging regional
self-determination through the creation of Regional Assemblies.
We are concerned to preserve the continuity of Northern Artsboth
its brand name and its specialist artform staff, who give invaluable
support to arts organisations and artists in the region. We need
that continued partnership and collaborative working with Northern
Arts' staff for the region to continue to maintain its effective
promotion of regional identity through the arts.
Consultation has provided evidence that the
majority of artists and arts organisations do not believe that
a single organisation will benefit them or the development of
If, however, these proposals are to proceed,
and whilst we note that "the governing council will delegate
significantly more powers to regional councils than are currently
assigned to the quasi-autonomous RABs", we feel it would
be essential for assurance to be given that:
There will be a similar appointment
system for the National Strategic Office's Chair and Chief Executive
posts, as there will be for the equivalent regional posts.
Each region will have discretion
in determining its own regional priorities: in policy direction,
funding allocations and staffing; that this discretion will be
detailed in the Royal Charter for the new organisation.
That the function of the "centre"
will be clearly detailed, and the limits on its powers set out
in the charter.
That there will be clearly devolved
budgets, managed regionally.
10 January 2002