RESPONSE BY THE NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR THE
ARTS (NCA) TO THE ARTS COUNCIL OF ENGLAND'S WORKING TOGETHER FOR
1.1 This paper is a response by the National
Campaign for the Arts (NCA) to the revised proposals for the future
of the arts funding system in England as set out by the Arts Council
of England in Working Together for the Arts.
1.2 The NCA believes that there is an urgent
need to reform the arts funding system in order to reduce bureaucracy
and save on administrative costs and direct more money into the
hands of artists. If a single structure can achieve this and maintain
the essential links with individual, local and regional communities,
particularly local authorities, it will be welcomed.
1.3 Working Together for the Arts addresses
some of the issues raised since the proposals were first published
in A Prospectus for Change, however, questions and concerns still
remain and these must be answered before any final decisions are
made. The NCA is particularly concerned that the new proposals
do not fully address the needs of artists and arts organisations,
particularly those working in rural and localised communities
who have little or no understanding of funding mechanisms and
tend to feel intimidated by London-centric organisations and policies.
1.4 This paper will address the key issues
which arise in Working Together for the Arts and will be structured
around the eight main chapter headings in the document.
2.1 The NCA welcomes the more detailed information
provided about the structure of the regional councils. It supports
moves to formalise local authority representation on the councils
and to increase the involvement of other regional bodies, such
as Regional Development Agencies. The NCA expresses concern about
the representation of arts practitioners on the councils. Arts
practitioners must also have a strong presence on the regional
councils to ensure that these bodies stay in touch with the needs
of artists and arts organisations in their regions.
2.2 The NCA is in favour of greater regional
representation on the governing council but remains concerned
that regional chairs will have to spend more time away from their
regions than is currently necessary, and that this could prove
detrimental to the development of arts in the regions.
2.3 The NCA expresses concern that the executive
directors of each regional executive office will be answerable
to the chief executive of the national body as this represents
a chain of command between the centre and the regions, not equal
partnership within a single organisation.
2.4 The NCA welcomes further devolution
of power to the regions and wishes this to be made explicit in
the proposals. At present it is proposed that the governing council
will delegate significantly more powers to the regional councils
than are currently assigned to the Regional Arts Boards (RABs),
but no indication is given to what these powers will be. Furthermore,
the proposals state that the governing council will retain the
right to revoke any delegated decisions, although it will only
exercise that right in extreme circumstances, for example, if
a regional decision were incompatible with national policy. This
calls into question the level of power that the regions will hold
in the new organisation, and indicates that national decisions
will carry more weight than regional ones in the new structure.
2.5 The lack of detail about the senior
management structure of the new organisation is also a concern.
The NCA acknowledges that many specific details cannot be determined
until the structure is agreed by all, however, it seeks further
reassurance that there will be a strong regional representation
on this team.
2.6 The proposals refer to achieving consistency
throughout the whole organisation as a "genuinely corporate
approach". Whilst the NCA is in favour of a harmonious and
strategic approach in terms of policy and practice across the
regions, it seeks reassurance that there will be room in the new
structure for regional differences.
3. LOCAL AUTHORITY
3.1 The NCA welcomes acknowledgement of
the important role that local authorities play in supporting the
arts throughout the country, and hopes that this will go some
way towards rebuilding the local authorities' relationship with
the Arts Council, which was affected by the publication of A Prospectus
3.2 The NCA supports the retention of the
local authority arts forums on a region-by-region basis, and welcomes
the proposal of meetings involving regional and local bodies to
identify and discuss matters of common concern to all regions.
3.3 The NCA supports the national body's
intention to continue to liaise with the Local Government Association
and other local authority groups.
4. NATIONAL AND
4.1 The NCA supports the efforts made to
demonstrate that the proposals represent real devolution to the
region. It welcomes assurances of increased delegation to the
regions through the regional councils and, where possible and
appropriate, onward to external regional bodies (such as local
authorities and other arts agencies). It does, however, seek further
clarification regarding the actual level of regional autonomy
that the regional councils will hold.
4.2 The NCA welcomes increased delegation
of both flexible and lottery funding to the regions but is concerned
about the lack of figures provided to support this claim. The
new proposals state only that "the regional executive offices
will, on unification, have delegated responsibility for a proportion
of the £12 million in flexible funds that the Arts Council
currently manages centrally". Furthermore, the NCA is concerned
about the level of financial decision-making that the regions
will hold within the new structure. Each executive regional office
will prepare its own budget but the national strategic body will
assume responsibility for overall financial strategy, and the
governing council may, on occasion, choose to specify particular
levels of funding to individual organisations or budgets. This
indicates that the national central body will have ultimate control
over spending and funding decisions throughout the regions, and
reinforces the NCA's request to have greater assurance that there
will be strong regional representation on the senior management
4.3 The NCA is in favour of moves to standardise
monitoring procedures and funding criteria across the regions,
which will result in a fairer system for artists and arts organisations
throughout the country. It strongly supports moves to reduce bureaucracy
to ensure that less money is spent on administering the system
and more funds reach artists and arts organisations. It does,
however, request further details on how this will be achieved.
The NCA welcomes moves to reduce interference in the work of funded
organisations but is concerned that this will result in less support
from and less contact with arts officers. One strength of the
current system is the relationships which develop between regional
arts officers and their clients, which are particularly important
for small and rural organisations who have little or no knowledge
of funding mechanisms. The new organisation must achieve a balance
between supporting and trusting their clients and interfering
unnecessarily in their work.
5. REGIONAL PARTNERSHIPS
5.1 The NCA supports moves to strengthen
regional partnerships. It is pleased that the issue of wider regional
funding has been acknowledged and that the proposed regional executive
offices will be given the necessary authority to solicit and receive
funds from other sources.
5.2 The NCA is pleased that the proposed
Local Authority Fund has been abandoned and that the national
body has agreed to work with the Local Government Association
to address the issue of local authority subscriptions.
5.3 The NCA welcomes the acknowledgement
that the standard south east region is too large to provide adequate
support to artists and arts organisations from a single office,
and is pleased that the possibility of creating two south east
regional executive offices is being explored. This possibility
must be thoroughly investigated and costed fully to ensure that
the idea is workable and will cause minimum disruption to funded
arts practitioners. The NCA hopes that the Arts Council will seriously
consider the outcomes of current research into the question of
boundaries in the south, and into the question of Cumbria, and
will revise its own proposals on the basis of these outcomes if
6. ENHANCED CAPACITY
6.1 The NCA welcomes moves to make the funding
process clearer and simpler for arts practitioners by minimising
bureaucratic procedures (in particular in relation to lottery
funding) and reducing the number of national and regional schemes.
It supports proposals which will ensure consistency of approach
across the regions but request assurances the system will still
accommodate and encourage regional differences.
6.2 The NCA supports efforts to relax monitoring
of regularly funded organisation but again expresses concern that
this may result in less contact with arts officers. It welcomes
the move to make specialists more available nationally, and encourages
a review of the current advisory system in order to ensure consistency
and flexibility across the country.
6.3 The NCA agrees that, if implemented,
the new organisation should be based on a new set of values determined
by the organisation itself, and that it should not represent a
reinvented Arts Council. Development of arts in the regions should
be central to these values.
7. THE REWARDS
7.1 The NCA welcomes proposals to direct
any savings made to artists and arts organisations but expresses
concern at the lack of detail given about the projected savings.
It is stated that the aim for the new organisation is to find
ways of releasing £8-10 million a year from current administrative
costs, but it is not explained how this figure was reached or
how the savings will be made. The projected savings are not guaranteed
and cannot be until a decision is made about the future of the
arts funding system. This means that the projected costs of transition
(predicted at £8 million) could also be inaccurate, and this
would impact on any potential savings. More detailed costings
are needed before the system us approved.
7.2 If the projected savings are realised
it is suggested that they are devoted entirely to creating flexible
funds for the areas of cultural diversity and the individual artist
for at least the first three years. Whilst these are worthy areas
the NCA hopes that other areas of arts activity will not be excluded
from benefiting from the savings.
7.3 The NCA welcomes moves to reduce staff
at the central office from 220 to a maximum of 80 but expresses
concern that this may not be achieved. Similar reductions have
been proposed in the past and have failed to materialise. The
NCA seeks reassurance that this can be achieved and requests further
details of how this will be realised. The NCA also seeks clarification
on whether or not this figure includes staff in the corporate
service areas who, if the proposals are implemented, may be relocated
outside of London. If the figure excludes these people then it
8. SOME ASPECTS
8.1 The NCA agrees that there is a need
to move to a stage of certainty regarding the proposed changes
as soon as reasonably possible for the benefit of all concerned,
but especially for artists and arts organisations who are currently
experiencing uncertainty about their future funding. However,
appropriate time must be allocated to allow for full and proper
consultation on the proposals.
8.2 Although the new proposals are more
detailed than in their first manifestation, serious questions
still remain concerning cost and the role of regional bodies within
the new organisation. These issues must be fully addressed and
resolved before the RABs can transfer their assets, commitments
and liabilities to a new organisation.
8.3 The NCA believes that the proposed timetable
for agreement on the proposals poses a real threat to future funding
of the arts. The attention of artists and arts organisations is
currently so firmly focussed on the proposals that they are neglecting
to consider the implications on the 2002 spending review, and
have failed to submit bids for more money to the Department for
Culture, Media and Sport. Unless the case for increased funding
for the arts is made soon there is a real danger that government
funding for the arts could dramatically decrease in real terms
over the next five years.
9. THE ARTS
9.1 The NCA supports the view that there
should be a new or amended royal charter for the new organisation
which includes specific reference to delegation to the regions,
in order to safeguard this process for the future. The NCA also
believes that a new name should be considered for the new structure,
to illustrate that it is an entirely new organisation based on
a new set of values. This must be achieved at minimum cost.
10.1 The NCA acknowledges that there are
problems inherent in the current system and believes that there
is an urgent need for reform. It endorses moves to reduce bureaucracy
and direct more money into the hands of artists and arts organisations.
It welcomes any system that can achieve this whilst maintaining
the essential links with individual, local and regional communities.
10.2 The NCA welcomes efforts made in the
revised proposals to ensure that delegation to the regions will
continue and increase. The proposals do not, however, go far enough,
and more details are needed to convince the arts community that
the regions will retain a powerful voice within the new structure.
10.3 The NCA has long campaigned for a more
harmonious and strategic approach to the allocation of funds to
the arts and community across the regions, and more consistency
in terms of performance standards and monitoring criteria. It
welcomes moves to achieve this but believes that the new structure
must also accommodate and encourage regional differences.
10.4 Working together for the Arts purports
to provide more detailed costings of the proposals than were previously
available. This is not the case the figures it does provide
are not explained and can therefore not be relied upon. More detailed
costings are required before the proposed structure can be approved.
Furthermore, the document itself appears extensive but is, in
fact, extremely repetitive. The appendices are meant to provide
more detailed information than the chapters they relate to, but
in reality they restate much of what has been said beforehand.
10.5 The NCA is especially concerned that
the new proposals do not fully address the needs for artists and
arts organisations, particularly those working in rural and localised
communities who often have little or no knowledge of funding mechanisms
and tend to feel intimidated by London-centric organisations and
policies. The primary concern of arts practitioners is making
art, and the funding mechanism must be as transparent and accessible
as possible to allow them to engage in that creative process.
10.6 The NCAS believes that the timetable
for the consultation and implementation of the proposals should
be revised at it poses a real threat to future funding of the
arts. By introducing a more flexible timetable the Arts Council
will allow arts practitioners more time to consider other important
developments, such as the 2002 spending review, which will impact
significantly on their future, and consequently on the future
of the arts in England.
11 January 2002