Supplementary memorandum submitted by
North West Arts
Letter dated 14 January 2002 to the Chairman
of the Arts Council of England from the Chairman of the North
West Arts Board
Our Board met on 17 December to consider the
draft transfer proposal. You asked in your letter of 30 November
for feedback from the Board on what we realise remains work in
progress. I hope that this response will be useful in ensuring
that the final document is appropriate to allow this process to
Clearly considerable work has gone into fleshing
out some of the detail around the proposal, and this provides
assurance on a number of issues. In its discussions the Board
was very mindful of its responsibility to act independently and
with due diligence in the interests of the charity for which it
is a trustee. In this spirit, we focussed on a few key issues
where greater clarity or reassurance would be particularly helpful.
There are a number of detailed points also, but I will not seek
to deal with all of these in this letter; they are best left to
the ongoing officer discussions.
The most critical areas we want to be sure of
are around resources to do the job we are being asked to carry
out, staffing and the fundamental issue of delegation and governance.
On this latter point, the documentation, including the amended
Charter, shows helpful progress and the Board acknowledged this
in its discussion. However, it remains of paramount importance,
as the Secretary of State has said, that this process protects
and enhances regional devolution and determination rather than
the reverse. If we get this right, and the issues of staffing
and resource, then I have confidence that we can continue to carry
out our remit, on behalf of the arts in the North West, within
the new organisation.
We very much welcome confirmation that we will
have delegated authority to devise and set the staffing structure
we feel we need to do the particular job that this regional office
will have, within agreed resources. However, we are concerned
about transferring without any clarity on proposed structures.
It is evident, given the tasks that regional offices will be required
to carry out that many current jobs in the regional office will
remain as they currently are. For many, if not all, staff it should
be possible to give that certainty before transfer, and we would
ask that the Arts Council allow us to do so. Our legal advice,
incidentally, is that "consultation with staff on proposals
for reorganisation (and if possible agreeing the new structure
in advance of the transfer so that it can take effect on the Transfer
Date)" is possible at this stage.
At the very least, we feel we need assurance
on the resource we will have to deliver the functions we are being
asked to deliver. The addition of Cumbria to our region is an
exciting opportunity. It is an important area, with challenges
of geography, rural issues, urban decline, and a strong base of
artists, particularly individuals. Given the emerging national
rural agenda in the wake of foot and mouth, it will be critical
that as a system we give effective service to Cumbria, and other
similar areas around the country, in the coming years. We will
be unable to respond to this challenge in the North West within
our existing resources for staff and overhead. We estimate that
our arts budget will increase by something in the order of £1.5
million with our newly configured region. Our current budget plan
provides for our reducing NWAB's total overhead, including all
staffing, to 9 per cent of total income by 2003-4. We would propose
provision of the same percentage overhead applied to our increased
gross income, being maintained until such time as the Regional
Council feels able to confirm its full structure and costs within
that envelope. A guarantee on this would be immensely helpful
in our satisfying ourselves that delivery of our charitable responsibility
will be protected in the new organisation.
We understand that the final document will include
a clearer indication of the functions we and other parts of the
organisation will be expected to carry out.
The Board feels it is important to understand
more fully the proposed functions of the National Strategic Office
as this will have a direct impact on our own activity and resource
needs. We feel the new organisation will need an effective and
supportive centre. However, it is essential that this does not,
inadvertently or otherwise, interfere with relationships and decisions
relating to clients, partners and arts organisations in the regions.
Again, it is critical that there is proper regional delegation,
and also recognition that "national" functions could
and should take place in and from regional offices and not just
the national strategic office. One important point relating to
this was that the Board felt it was extremely important to ensure
a full separation, in terms of offices as well as organisationally,
between the national office and the London office. This would
help ensure that the national office is genuinely strategic and
"national" in its outlook, and also as slim as possible.
We would ask for as much clarity as possible, for example through
an indication of structures, on the national strategic and corporate
services areas, and how they will relate to the regions.
4. THE BENEFIT
Whilst focusing on its responsibility for the
arts in the North West, the Board was also very clear that this
major reorganisation must meet the aim of genuinely improving
the service and funding the system delivers to the arts. The benefits,
and how they will be achieved, are not dealt with in the Proposal,
and we feel they should be, as we will all need to be accountable
for their delivery in the new organisation.
Finally, there are a number of important process
points that will need to be gone through before transfer. These
Ensuring that a proper legal agreement
for transfer of the assets is now drafted and agreed as a matter
of urgency, as such documentation will be necessary for the formal
transfer to take place;
Confirmation (presumably in the above
legal agreement) on how the agreements in this Transfer Proposal
are protected post transfer;
Ensuring that the current progress
on the pensions issue is satisfactorily resolved before transfer.
Clearly there is much to be done, and we remain
committed to playing our part in the process. I look forward to
meeting you in January and discussing this further.