Written evidence from the Public and Commercial Services Union (OLL 13)

Introduction and Summary

 

1. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is the largest civil service trade union representing over 300,000 members working in most government departments, non-departmental public bodies, agencies and privatised areas.

 

2. PCS represents over 5,000 members employed in the culture, media and sport sector across the nation, working in National Museums and Galleries such as the British Museum and V&A, The National Museums of Liverpool, National Museum of Science and Industry, National Museums and Galleries of Scotland, National Museum of Wales, the British Library, English Heritage, Historic Royal Palaces, Visit Britain, agencies such as the Royal Parks and the sports councils; Sport England, Sport Scotland and Sports Council Wales. Therefore, we are in a unique position to submit evidence as part of this inquiry as our members encourage and develop participation in sports and cultural life across the country every day.

 

3. We welcome the committee's inquiry as an opportunity to share our anxieties about the lasting legacy of the Olympics. We are concerned that the original vision of the London 2012 bid to provide a sustainable and inclusive games is slipping away, as demonstrated by allocating funding to elitist sports such as rowing and sailing whilst a sport that would encourage more mass participation, like table tennis, is left on the sidelines.

 

4. We would very much support a return to the original bid, which would see a local legacy being left for the entire nation, including; Olympic standard training camps provided across the UK, the use of Olympic sites as key for the public and also retaining the management of these sites within the public sector so there is long-term mass accessibility and participation, which is not governed by economic imperatives. The current financial situation, for example, resulted in the disappearance of private sector funding for the media centre and Olympic village in early 2009.

 

5. This submission therefore covers our concerns about:

Progress towards meeting targets to increase grass roots participation in sport

The aim of leaving a lasting legacy that improves cultural life; and

How success in delivering a lasting legacy can be measured.

 

Progress towards meeting targets to increase grass roots participation in sport

 

6. The top slicing of budgets across the sports and culture sector to pay for the Olympics has been and is of major concern to us. An example of this is Sport England, where, despite the Chair's protests to James Purnell (then Secretary of State at DCMS) the budget was cut and it resulted in inevitable cancelled projects and impacted on the organisation's targets to raise the numbers participating in sports in the south east.

 

7. PCS would strongly recommend that organisations have time to embed their strategies and demonstrate they can meet targets rather than, as in Sport England's case, having to review and revisit its strategies and goals as the organisation moved from being a national body to becoming a regional and then back to being a national body over a short period of time. The moving of their goal posts has only resulted in an organisation having to become inward looking as it reorganises, rather than fulfilling its purpose and realising its objectives.

 

8. We also believe that the existing work organisations are undertaking should be reviewed and supported, rather than simply directing them to embrace every new fad, for instance in the example cited above it is evident that the government has been confused about its policy regarding sport. We believe the changes to Sport England's focus question whether there is a comprehensive and coherent government vision for sport, or whether the principle objective is to gain as many medals as possible, with no comprehensive strategy in place on harvesting more long term benefits towards mass access to sports, improving health and well being and enhancing communities.

 

9. Most of the contribution to grass root participation in sport comes from public funds, including the revenue and lottery, although we believe the latter has been eroded regarding the community in recent years and therefore constitutes just another form of taxation, impacting more on the lower paid as they pay the subs but do not share the benefits. We believe that there is merit in encouraging the involvement of other governing bodies in sport, such as the Football Association and that the government should place requirements on them to make a greater contribution, considering the millions at their disposal.

 

10. We are not satisfied that there is a coherent strategy in place, co-ordinated by government, where all stakeholders with a vested interest are working in a joined up way towards achieving grass root participation. By stakeholders we mean the health sector, local councils, the Sports Councils, UK Sport and relevant community groups and clubs.

 

The aim of leaving a lasting legacy that improves cultural life

 

11. PCS believes that the phrase legacy should not purely mean the situation post 2012 but should also focus on increasing participation and activity nationwide in anticipation of the games in 2012.

 

12. We think there are questions that need answering about:

Who is ultimately responsible for determining what the lasting legacy of the games is?

What is the extent of planning that has gone into a coherent and comprehensive approach?

What organisations have fed into the development of this approach?

 

13. Our perception is that there is no ownership of the legacy and a worrying vagueness around it. We are aware that across the culture sector a number of organisations are piggybacking onto the Olympics and there has been much talk of a cultural Olympiad. However, as far as we can ascertain there has been no central call from the government to all the organisations that have a part to play and an interest in contributing ideas, opinions and developing a strategy. We are also aware that previous Olympics have left no sustained legacy of mass participation.

 

14. Top slicing of budgets has left organisations vulnerable and resulted in them seeking funding and sponsorship through other means, principally the private sector. In the culture sector the pool to source funding from is limited, not just because the various organisations are vying for funding from a restricted number of sponsors, but also due to the recession having caused greater difficulty in attracting sponsorship or donations.

 

15. Funding, whether from central government or the private sector for projects is frequently ring-fenced and therefore cuts are being made elsewhere in the organisations, which inevitably has an impact on the cultural legacy that will be left on the protection of objects, the experience of visitors and refurbishment of the fabric of buildings.

 

16. We are also aware of proposals by the Conservative Party to introduce a Museums and Heritage bill that will decouple the link between National Museums and Galleries and other NDPBs from the civil service so that they are run as autonomous bodies.

 

17. This bill gravely concerns us as we believe that instead of these great public institutions being run for the British public they will suffer from increased commercialisation and competition. This could potentially restrict research, learning and possibly access, as the private sector will look for a return on its investment, rather than being the guardians of the nation's cultural heritage. Recent events in the economy should be a warning that reliance on sponsorship is tenuous and that the nation's cultural heritage should not be a hostage to world markets.

 

18. The demands for greater efficiencies have resulted in damages to public services and our members' terms and conditions being eroded. Our perception is that many initiatives introduced across the culture sector are for short term gain rather than based on a long term perspective.

 

19. National Museums and Galleries, the Sports Councils and the myriad of other organisations we represent members in are focused on immediate results in terms of efficiency savings. This has therefore affected the quality of their exhibitions, most notably at the Science Museum, and the status, terms and conditions of our members. For instance at the Science Museum they have introduced a two tier workforce with certain categories of staff employed on its Trading Company contracts, thereby removing access to benefits and particularly the pension scheme enjoyed by other staff directly employed by the museum. The resulting reduction in morale and commitment to the institution of those staff affected is evident and will impact on the corporate drive to achieve targets, the visitor experience and the ability to attract a diverse workforce.

 

20. Over the last few years the outsourcing of services has increased in the culture sector and we believe the service to the public has lessened, again putting a positive future legacy at risk following 2012. We are acutely aware of the detrimental impact this can have on service delivery. For example the increase in the number of thefts after the security function was privatised at the V&A and the lowering of standards when cleaning was outsourced at the Natural History Museum.

 

21. We are concerned that with this outsourcing of services opportunities for a more diverse workforce decrease - both in terms of ethnicity and choice of employment. We believe that those directly employed in the culture sector should not be an elite Oxbridge group doling out culture to the masses but should be reflective of the rich diversity of our society, enabling opportunities to be part of the heritage workforce, whether as a cleaner, retail assistant or academic. PCS strongly believes that outsourcing reduces opportunities for people wanting to get into cultural employment and as we see everyday museums, galleries and other heritage organisations are currently failing in being diverse employers, which we believe is not the great cultural legacy the nation should be left with.

 

22. In order to develop a legacy we can be proud of, particularly with regards to mass participation in sports we believe that there should be consultation with and involvement of the third sector. However, proper funding for this sector should be rooted through the public sector in order to achieve equitable outcomes in terms of access and participation in sporting activity. Also where sponsorship can be drawn down, this should be additional to, rather than replace public resourcing. For understandable reasons there is concern about sanctioning the use of volunteers to do work that should be paid for and we would not condone the practice of exploiting the opportunity of involving local enthusiastic volunteers in communities as cheap labour.

 

How success in delivering lasting legacy can be measured

 

23. Our members are highly dedicated to the sector. They want to provide a quality service to the public; therefore they want a successful lasting legacy of the Olympics to include a lasting and sustained increase in the grass-roots participation in sport and local culture. This cannot be achieved though if the government and management view greater accessibility and participation at the cost of good working conditions for their workforce.

 

24. PCS recognises that there is a need to measure outputs for a short-term understanding of how many people are getting involved in activities. This allows organisations to demonstrate they are meeting the output targets, but as discussed earlier we firmly believe that organisations must be given targets then left alone for a specified time to embed their strategies to ensure greater outcomes can be delivered.

 

25. We believe that as well as measuring the outputs, outcomes should be evaluated so that progress over time can be demonstrated. It is crucial we measure the outcomes to understand the long-term impact of our interventions. Participation in sport, visitor numbers and the shift in how people get involved with sport/culture will change slowly, as it's a generational shift.

26. A practical way of the government gauging the impact of the legacy we believe can be achieved through adding an appropriate question in DCMS's 'Taking Part' survey. In earlier versions the survey had a question asking "Do you think winning the bid to host the 2012 Olympics has motivated you to do more sport or recreational physical activity?" This year - year 5 (2009/10) the question has been taken out, but is to be re-instated for year 6 (2010/11). We would therefore suggest that a question on wider cultural activity is included, motivated by the cultural Olympiad.

 

27. PCS would also suggest looking at the value and other benefits that involvement in cultural and sporting activities can foster, in previous research benefits have included:

improved health and well being

improved mental health

a reduction in crime and an increase in community safety

improved social cohesion

improved education and lifelong learning

the positive economic impact; and

the contribution to the regeneration of local communities.

 

Conclusion

 

28. PCS therefore believes that we should return to the original vision of the Olympic bid and that there needs to clear ownership of the Olympic legacy. We also believe there should be a clarification on what the legacy means and we would recommend that feedback is sought from stakeholders. PCS urges that achieving a legacy, which no other country has done, should not be at a cost to the committed workforce in the culture and sport sector where due to privatisation and outsourcing our members terms and conditions have been eroded.

 

29. In addition, the importance of joined up working between the cultural institutions, local government, central government, Sports Councils and governing bodies needs to put in place and sustained.

 

30. Finally we believe that the Olympic legacy should encompass the involvement and benefit to the United Kingdom as a whole and not, as some fear be purely London/England focused.

 

January 2010