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




  This response reflects the views of Northern Arts Board and views from its clients and partners.

  "Northern Arts remains to be convinced by the Arts Council's proposals for a single organisation. We positively welcome the Secretary of State's commitment to devolution but now need to establish more detail on how regional policy autonomy and devolution will be safeguarded."

  We welcome a number of changes made since the Arts Council's original Prospectus and seek to identify the key outstanding issues on which Northern Arts Board will be seeking clarification, safeguards or changes in the final proposals. Northern Arts wrote to the Arts Council in August asking specific questions as a Board and employer and looks forward to receiving a response.

  Northern Arts has often been quoted throughout the process as a model Regional Arts Board (RAB). It has an experienced staff and Board, a high regional profile, well known brand, innovative investment programmes, strong regional partnerships and efficient internal systems. Prior to the Prospectus, our Customer Survey showed exceptionally high levels of satisfaction with Northern Arts' service delivery. Consultation on the proposals has consistently reinforced the high regard in which our agency is held in the region.

  Northern Arts made it clear in response to Prospectus 1 that it did not see a "single organisation" as the best model for the arts in England. We do, however, recognise that the Secretary of State has now given "unequivocal" support to the single organisation. The Secretary of State has also given a commitment to seeing devolution at the heart of the proposals. Northern Arts now wishes to achieve safeguards and clarity about the levels of devolution and regional policy autonomy within any new structure. We also wish to secure further improvements to the proposals to make them workable within the region.

  Our consultations across the region inform this response. In particular we wish to see:

    —  Devolution enshrined in the constitution of the new organisation.

    —  Greater regional policy autonomy to respond to regional priorities as well as national policy.

    —  Clarification on the levels of devolution.

    —  Recognition of the need for regional determination of specialist staffing in the regions.

    —  A focus on quality of service delivery rather than the cost driven model proposed in the document.

    —  Retention of Northern Arts' name and brand.


  Northern Arts Board recognises that there have been significant changes from the original Prospectus:

    —  Regions are more central to the proposals.

    —  There are promises of greater devolution with potential for all Lottery to be devolved.

    —  All funding decisions on arts organisations' grants will be taken regionally.

    —  Regional Boards will be retained in the form of Regional Councils, nominated from within the region.

    —  Regional Chairs will form the majority of a new National Council.

    —  Regional Chairs will be nominated regionally for agreement by the Secretary of State.

    —  All Regional Executive Directors will join the National Management Team.

    —  There are some new measures to involve Local Government nationally.

    —  There is some recognition of regional roles in advocacy, partnership development and advice as well as funding.

    —  The success of the Regional Arts Lottery Programme (RALP) and Year of the Artist are recognised as models of national projects run with regional priorities.

    —  National policy will be informed by the regions.

    —  The Regional Councils will appoint their own staff.

    —  There is agreement to take account of the study on Cumbria in relation to proposed boundary changes.

  Northern Arts would like to see clarifications, safeguards and further improvements in the following areas:


    —  Regional policy autonomy. We require the ability to allocate funding according to regional priorities. This is currently delivered via national programmes such as RALP but also in regionally distinctive work such as our focus on cultural business investment or public art commissioning.

    —  A critical test of whether the proposals represent devolution or delegation is whether the regions are controlled in their devolved decision making. To achieve devolution there would need to be removal of any right of the National Council to revoke regional decisions when they do not meet national policy. The future structure needs to recognise the work of RABs with other regional partners who have their own regional or local priorities.

    —  We would expect there to be national safeguards and lines of accountability for Government and Treasury funding but, as is currently the case, these can be exercised by the national Board approving regional corporate delivery plans and budgets.

    —  There needs to be greater clarity on the level of devolution, which budgets will be devolved and the framework for devolved decision making powers. The region believes that there should be total devolution of Lottery funding.

    —  We wish to see the retention our brand name 'Northern Arts' and the eye logo. Northern Arts has a strong regional brand which contributes to regional identity of the arts. Arts organisations and regional partners have spoken out strongly and view this as a brand owned by the region, not just Northern Arts. There is concern amongst arts organisations at the cost to them in changing print and constitutions as a result of a name change in the region.


    —  We need the flexibility to determine what specialist staffing is required to deliver regional partnerships. Northern Arts has designed its staffing to deliver specific services such as our work in advising on arts commissions, cultural industries, arts in education and Lottery capital planning. We will require a regional finance function to provide quality of service delivery on grants, to provide external support to clients and to monitor complex regional funding from a range of sources. This is seen as critical to our partnerships with other external agencies.

    —  The document refers to "light touch" which implies a reduced or different level of contact with arts organisations. Whilst this will be welcomed in some cases, we need to reflect the needs of the clients, particularly in developing sectors.

    —  We wish to maintain artform expertise at a senior level in the region. Clients have stressed the importance of having adequate officer support. Whilst people welcome a lighter touch in monitoring and assessment, this has been confused by the Arts Council with the valued advice and contact which clients appreciate from specialist officers. Organisations have commented that they don't just want to see their RAB when there is a crisis but value the practical advice in areas such as finance, recruitment and business planning which will help avoid future crises.

    —  Northern Arts is not convinced that the Arts Council's savings targets are either achievable or desirable and sees quality of service delivery as something which is valued by regional artists, clients and partners. Whilst we recognise that the majority of the savings will be made in London, we need to see how the savings will be made in practice. There was a unanimous view in consultation that artists and arts organisations would rather see quality of service ahead of token savings on administration.

    —  The role of RABs in resource development and fundraising for the sector is in many ways as important as their role in overseeing effective investment of their own funding.

    —  There needs to be greater clarity over the size and nature of the "centre" and how it will engage with regional specialist expertise. Regional clients have commented on artform leadership, suggesting that arts organisations in the North don't look to London for their artform leadership but to the regions and Europe.

    —  There was also a view expressed that artform leadership is primarily delivered by artists and arts leaders working at the coal face not by ACE or RAB staff and that more resources should be directed to support external networks in various artforms.


    —  The proposals need to offer clarity and improved arrangements for input of Regional Assemblies and Local Authorities.

    —  The proposals offer fewer places in number on Regional Councils for Local Authorities. We need to know whether there is room for regional difference where there is strong Local Authority support for the arts. In the Northern region we have effective mechanisms in place to allow for geographic and demographic spread of Board nominations from Local Government.

    —  In terms of Cumbria and boundaries, we have now concluded an initial study on how Cumbria might transfer to the North West. Northern Arts Board has always stated that it wishes to retain Cumbria, but that any decision has to be taken by Cumbria itself. In developing the brief for the study, it was concluded that the study should concentrate on the issues surrounding any proposed transfer. Northern Arts and North West Arts have issued a joint position statement and a draft of the report has been delivered to the Arts Council. It notes that such changes inevitably incur costs not savings. In the event of a transfer it calls for a swift resolution on funding transfers by 31 October 2001 to avoid planning blight. The report also stresses that there would still need to be cross border working and that there should be no detrimental effect on arts organisations on either side of the Pennines.

    —  Northern Arts Board has said that if Cumbria is to transfer, it has to be a decision of the Arts Council, as the preference of Northern Arts and the majority of Cumbria clients is to retain relationships with Northern Arts.


    —  The Royal Charter of the new body needs to provide constitutional safeguards for the position of having Regional Chairs on the National Council.

    —  Devolution also needs to be enshrined in the Royal Charter.

    —  We need written proof that regional funds such as European Regional Development Fund, Regional Development Agency funding and charitable funds can still be received by regional offices.

    —  Northern Arts Board wants to see safeguards for its staff, not least to ensure that valued expertise is maintained in the region.

9 January 2002

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