The Association of North East Councils, the
representative body for local government, and the North East Assembly,
the Regional Chamber for the North East, welcome the opportunity
to feed in views to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on
the Arts Council's proposals for change.
There has been (and continues to be) some significant
concern in the North East about the proposals. To summarise the
points made in greater detail below, we have some fundamental
concerns that the Arts Council is essentially proposing to create
a single national organisation, with regional outposts, which
does not sit well either with the hitherto successful functioning
of the regional arts board in the North East, or with the broader
devolution agenda. By their very nature, regional agencies should
be able to deliver regional priorities, agreed by the regions.
The Arts Council would do doubt argue that this will happen under
the new proposals. There is real concern, though, that under the
proposed new arrangements, the regional arts boards will always
be looking to the centre, rather than the region, because that
is where their funding and powers will come from. We have been
urging reconsideration of the proposals, particularly in the light
of the forthcoming white paper on regional government.
The following are the points which Members raised:
the proposals revolve around a single
organisation model. No other options have been, in our view, properly
considered. This is a missed opportunity to position the arts
strongly at the centre, with a slimmed down, focused central organisation,
and equally strong in the regions (with an arrangement, for example,
similar to the RDA/Assembly model), thus positioning the arts
with the emerging regional devolution agenda. In the light of
the Government's proposals for devolution to the English Regions,
the medium-longer term sustainability of these proposals must
be in doubt;
evidence of real devolution was requested
by the Secretary of State. We consider that the proposals offer
delegation rather than real devolution, with a "national
policy framework", and reference is made in the proposals
to powers of the national organisation to revoke decisions;
there needs to be an ability to allocate
funding according to regional priorities. Clarity is needed on
the nature and scale of the funding to be devolved, in particular,
how much lottery funding is to be devolved;
the Arts Council has suggested that
savings of £8-£10 million will be achieved but there
is concern how realistic these figures are and there is little
detail on how they will be delivered.
there needs to be greater clarity
and improved arrangements for input by Assemblies and local authorities.
Local authorities play a critical role in arts and cultural provision
at the regional level and not just as funders. The proposals do
not really deliver this. Any real ownership is removed, which
is currently delivered through company membership and subscription
whilst the proportion of local authority
members in relation to the Board is increasing (one third to two
fifths), the number of seats is reducing (from eight plus two
observers to six and this includes representatives from the Assembly).
The two should be separate, with the Assembly seats being additional
(serving different purposes). Northern Arts Board is pressing
for there to be flexibility on this issue;
in relation to links with local government
generally, there is reference to links to the "Core Cities"
Group. There are regional associations of local government, like
ANEC, in all English Regions and strong links should be developed
with them as well as regional assemblies and other bodies; and
the regional brand of Northern Arts
needs to be protectedit is well-known and respected.
15 January 2002