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




  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.


  3.1  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 for Change.

  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.


  4.1  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 team.

  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.


  5.1  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 necessary.


  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.


  7.1  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 is misleading.


  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.


  9.1  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

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