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


Memorandum submitted by Hartlepool Borough Council


  I write to submit the response of this authority to the Arts Council's Proposals for restructuring and help inform the Select Committee's awareness in advance of the forthcoming hearing.

  This document is a more meaningful publication that the original Prospectus for Change and actually goes some way to meet the concerns raised by many agencies, but particularly the Local Authorities who were largely overlooked in their pivotal role in delivering arts activity, particularly at local and regional levels.

  Furthermore, there is a recognition of the need to have a strong regional structure with regionally nominated Chairs with a place on the National Council. The acknowledgement that arts organisations grants, Lottery funding decisions and staffing appointments be determined locally gives a clearer statement of intent that the organisation will aim to deliver greater devolution, with the regions being more central to future decision making and actually helping to change the culture of the existing establishment into that of a new organisation.

  An organisation with a strong regional composition will need to acknowledge that continuing "regional differences" can be given the opportunity to thrive without the imposition of a national policy or direction in every area of the new body's work.

  On this basis, further clarification, safeguards and assurances will need to be given, namely:-

    1.    The ability to allocate funding according to regional policies, ie policy autonomy.

    2.    The removal of a National right of veto to regional initiatives, good practice will spread nationally, poor and ill judged ones will ultimately attract criticism and local pressure will effect change when assessed against better practice elsewhere. This is an opportunity for evolving good practice and the stimulation of initiatives.

    3.    Further devolution of an increased percentage of Lottery funding to regional responsibility.

    4.    Ability to retain specialist art form expertise at regional level, not a blanket coverage, but a system which will reflect regional strengths and interests.

    5.    How the projected savings of £8-10 million can be made?, no real evidence to date of where specifically this can be achieved. Not a great deal of point in being specific if the source of such savings cannot be explained.

    6.    The inference for continuing involvement and input of Local Authorities requires clarification. Local Authority funding and support for arts delivery was clearly overlooked in the Prospectus for Change, yet their support, most certainly in the Northern Arts region is beyond doubt and in some instances almost beyond reproach, with an enlightened approach to the importance of the arts, in all forms, to the improvement to residents quality of life.

    7.    In seeking a Royal Charter, this needs to ensure and provide safeguards for the position of having regional Chairs on the National Council and that the principle of devolution is similarly enshrined.

    8.    It is most important that existing opportunities for match grant funding can still be received by the new body with regional offices. In the Northern Arts region such funding has provided the impetus and often the catalyst for both the regions art "icons" and locally delivered services alike. This must not be jeopardised.

  From a Hartlepool Borough Council perspective, Northern Arts, the Regional Arts Board has a strong image, profile and record of collaboration and project support, any change naturally brings an element of concern, however, it would be tragic if the current body was weakened in its ability to act as a strong advocate for the arts network of the region.

  This response as part of the consultation process simply reflects Northern Arts current standing and reputation.

  I trust these comments are given full consideration as part of the Select Committee's considerations of the Arts Council's proposal to ensure that whatever future implementation model is agreed the strength of existing regional organisations and the contribution of local authorities are given due consideration.

17 January 2002

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