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


Memorandum submitted by London Arts


  1.  London Arts has at all points attempted to engage positively with the Arts Council of England (ACE)'s proposals for restructuring the arts funding and development system in England. In this spirit, in the autumn of 2001 it carried out an extensive consultation exercise involving national, regional and local organisations and organised a major conference on the proposals at Tate Modern. In November 2001 it submitted a substantive response to the document Working Together for the Arts. A copy of this detailed response is attached, together with a related paper prepared at the time (Shaping the Future—support for London's arts and cultural activities) addressing issues which should be covered in the design and development of the London aspects of the new organisation.

  2.  Following receipt in December 2001 of the first draft of a Transfer Proposal from ACE, the Board of London Arts sent a letter to ACE seeking a number of points of clarification and information so that it would be in a better position to decide whether, at its January 2002 meeting, it should take a decision in principle to transfer its staff and assets to ACE on 31 March 2002. This letter was drawn up on the basis of independent legal advice available to the Board. The principal areas on which it sought additional information were in respect of the simplification and savings which were expected from the restructuring; the anticipated functions of the London Regional Office of the new organisation and the financial parameters within which the London Regional Office would be designed; and the role which Board members of London Arts would be expected to play in the period following the proposed transfer at 31 March 2002 and the establishment of a London Regional Council of the new organisation. It also expressed concern that the relationship with the Greater London Authority, in terms of the appointment of the Chair and members of the Regional Council, had not been given due consideration and that there was insufficient time to work it out.

  3.  In advance of its January Board meeting, London Arts received a copy of the revised Transfer Proposal from ACE. This was accompanied by a letter from ACE's Chief Executive, Peter Hewitt, which addressed the points raised by London Arts, generally by reference to detailed sections of the Transfer Proposal. Similar letters were sent to the other Regional Arts Boards. In some instances, ACE indicated that it could not give full answers at this stage to the questions which had been raised, but in such instances, it explained why it considered that the information supplied was the maximum possible at this point.

  4.  London Arts' Board met again on 22 January. In advance of that meeting a number of its members had a meeting with ACE's Chair, Gerry Robinson and with Peter Hewitt to explore some issues referred to in the Transfer Proposal in greater depth.

  5.  At their meeting, Board members agreed to the following resolution:

  "That this RAB, on the basis of the Transfer Proposal dated 15 January 2002, agrees in principle to transfer all its staff, assets and liabilities and to this end will:

    (i)  inform its staff of its intention, as required by TUPE:

    (ii)  prepare a full schedule of its staff, assets and liabilities;

    (iii)  consult its staff and their representatives as it believes appropriate recognising that there are no measures by London Arts requiring TUPE consultation;

  in the full expectation of meeting in March to confirm its agreement to a transfer to be effected from 31 March 2002."

  6.  At the same time, the Board sought a further series of assurances from ACE in advance of its March meeting. The principal issues involved were in relation to pensions, where the Board asked to be assured that satisfactory and appropriate arrangements were made to protect the pension rights and benefits of all London Arts employees; on governance matters, where the Board remains concerned about how there will be continuity of governance and support to the executive between 31 March and the appointment (probably in late May or June) of the London Regional Council of the new organisation; and on the structure and financial envelope for the London Region Office, where it has itself, with ACE's agreement, instituted some work which it will review in March.

  7.  London Arts' Board will give careful consideration in March to the responses it receives from ACE on these and other questions before finally deciding, in the light also of the further legal advice which will be available to it, whether to assent to the proposed transfer. It continues to regret the manner in which this process has been conducted and retains doubts on the necessity for such a major upheaval in the arts funding and development system, particularly when the stated benefits from it remain uncertain. It also retains doubts that what could be interpreted to be a move towards a more centralised structure is an appropriate response to a climate in which a greater degree of regionalisation is apparently to be encouraged. However, it recognises that both ACE and the Government remain determined to effect the restructuring and, in these circumstances, believes that it would be unhelpful for its staff, its clients and the arts community as a whole for the process to be further prolonged.

  8.  The Select Committee has asked for specific comment on a number of ACE's statements. Brief comments on each of these points follow:

    (a)  ACE continues to state that it believes that savings in the order of £8-10 million per annum can be made in administration costs as a direct result of the restructuring. London Arts notes that, in the latest version of the Transfer Proposal, ACE has said that "the savings target was set on the understanding that it would be tested as staffing plans become more concrete. That remains the case." It has also noted the statement by the Minister for the Arts, Baroness Blackstone, in the House of Lords on 21 January that "the Government have asked the Arts Council to make sure that its commitment to making savings is fulfilled. The great majority of those savings will fall on the centre." London Arts endorses ACE's pledge that savings should be ploughed directly into support for artists and in particular into work supporting cultural diversity which it has itself signalled as a key priority. However, it will wish to be assured that, when additional clients and responsibilities are delegated to the new London Region, that transfer is accompanied by adequate resources so that there is no diminution in the quality of the service the Region provides and the range of activities it undertakes in support of the arts in London.

    (b)  Until work has been done on a detailed staffing structure for the new organisation, it will not be possible to judge whether the balance of duties for arts officers will change to enable them to devote more time to funding issues at the expense of administration tasks. London Arts agrees however that this is a desirable goal.

    (c)  ACE has stated its intention that the present plethora of arts funding schemes should be reduced to a small number of banded programmes (eight in the latest version of the Transfer Proposal). London Arts strongly supports efforts to make the funding system more accessible and easy to navigate for applicants. It is pleased to note that ACE has recognised the need to reflect regional difference within this simplified system.

    (d)  London Arts has noted that, in "The Case for FutureOrg" now set out in the Transfer Proposal, ACE has said that the new organisation "provides an accountability structure within which higher level decision-making can be located regionally than is the case now. Such further delegation would not have been provided by the Arts Council to the RABs because of insufficient accountability." It understands that this comment reflects that fact that at present the National Audit Office does not audit the accounts of the RABs, though there has never, as far as it is aware, been any suggestion that the RABs are anything other than fully accountable for the sums of public money which they distribute.

    (e)  ACE has said that further delegation to the regions is an essential part of the proposed restructuring and that, within the new organisation, there will be a greater degree of regional input to national decision-making. London Arts welcomes these statements. It is clear that the success or otherwise of the restructuring will crucially depend on the extent to which these pledges are translated into action.

    (f)  London Arts has always greatly valued the close relationship which it has enjoyed with local authorities in London, in particular through the Association of London Government and the Local Authority Forum. A number of representatives of local government serve on its Board and make an excellent contribution to its work. London Arts is pleased to see that, in the proposals for the new organisation, it is recommended that six (out of 15) places on the London Regional Council should be for local authorities. The proposals are however less clear about the methods by which the Greater London Authority should be involved in appointment to the London Regional Council and how it should be represented on the Council. London Arts is currently in urgent discussions with ACE and the GLA about how this can be resolved.

1 February 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 26 March 2002