Written evidence submitted by the Museums,
Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) (arts 98)
1. MLA welcomes the opportunity to feed
into the Committee's inquiry. Our submission highlights in main
our concerns and aspirations for the future funding of museums,
libraries and archives.
2. On the 26 July the Secretary of State
for Culture Media and Sport the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt announced as
part of the Government's Arms Length Review that the MLA would
be abolished to focus efforts on front-line services, with selected
functions transferred to other organisations. We are working with
DCMS and other bodies on the details and timescales for these
changes and look to the outcome of the Spending Review in October.
In the meantime the MLA is committed to being a source of robust
advocacy for museums, libraries and archives and for the people
and places that depend upon them, and for assisting a smooth transition
to the best new arrangements achievable.
3. It is the firm intention of the MLA Board
to communicate the advantages of a coherent and integrated approach
to the leadership of museums, libraries and archives, and their
join-up with other cultural and learning services. We believe
that these principles need to be well understood and reflected
in the shape of new delivery arrangements post-MLA. We judge that
it is important that expert advice, knowledge and research designed
to support the development of high quality services for local
people are not lost. We urge that the new arrangements must preserve
the advantages of a coherent and integrated approach to the development
and improvement of the sector within a wider cultural framework,
and in the task of safeguarding and making accessible the nation's
most important collections nationwide.
4. The MLA is the government's agency for
museums, libraries and archives. Leading strategically, MLA promotes
best practice in museums, libraries and archives to inspire innovative,
integrated and sustainable services for all. In the period 2007-10
the MLA transformed itself from an agency with 10 separate charities
and 90 trustees, to a single entity with a governance board of
just 10. In the process, MLA increased its operational efficiency
and realised substantial revenue savings.
5. We now work as an agency which targets
its resources to where they will be most effective in order to
support transformation in the sector. Working across government,
and with 150 local authorities, 3,000 public libraries, 300 archives
and 1,200 museums, we support targeted services for communities
and the people that live in them and work on national initiatives
that can't be delivered by local councils working on their own.
We have funding relationships with more than 80 bodies of varying
sizes, and collaborate with other Non Departmental Public Bodies
(NDPBs), and various sector and public bodies nationally and regionally.
6. MLA, through its engagement with local
councils, has special knowledge of each of their circumstances
in relation to libraries and cultural services. Our small but
agile field team (26 home workers across the country), has enabled
us to deliver some notable initiatives in support of sector transformation.
Our work is underpinned by four strategic priorities: continuous
improvement; learning and skills; sustainable communities and
effective leadership and strong advocacy.
7. Local government fundingOur
main concern in relation to future funding is the position of
local government. The majority of spend on museums, libraries
and archives is directly in the control of councils. We believe
there is a need for a place-based spending philosophya
locally determined and joined up approach to investment which
gives local partners the flexibility to move money to where it
can be effectively spent locally. We have worked closely with
Arts Council England and other NDPBs to encourage a joined-up
approach among government agencies in the English regions.
8. However, while MLA strongly supports
the principle of localism, that decisions should be made as closely
as possible to the users, we do not believe that local government
should be left un-supported with sole responsibility for museums,
libraries and archives. Outside of the un-defined duty to provide
a "comprehensive and efficient" library service, their
spend is largely discretionary and therefore especially vulnerable
given all councils are making cuts, and are also concerned about
the outcome of the Spending Review and subsequent local government
funding settlement. A key challenge is to manage the relationship
and respective responsibilities between central and local government.
It is vital that local government is supported; with expert advice
and guidance, and to form partnerships beyond their boundaries.
There must be a mechanism, incentive and duty on councils to consider
the wider geographical and national interest in safeguarding collections.
9. Sharper investmentMLA
believes that the size of the funding pot is only part of the
issuewe need mechanisms and the leadership to ensure that
money is well spent, duplication is avoided, best practice spread,
opportunities for levering in funding and promoting philanthropy
maximised, and the national interest protected. We believe it
vital that overheads within local councils are brought down to
the lowest possible level, over and above savings that can be
achieved by cross-boundary collaboration and sharing of services.
Investment must be focused on the front line, and services modelled
around the needs of the consumers.
10. Many initiatives can only be conceived
of, led and cost-effectively delivered nationally, whether that
is through an MLA or alternative arrangement. MLA has delivered
a number of such initiatives, such as the People's Network, Reference
Online and faster broadband for libraries. A list of key current
national functions that will need maintenance is in Paragraph
11. Future of RenaissanceThe
MLA currently administers Renaissancethe £50 million
per annum programme which delivers funding to regional museums
ensuring government can effectively influence the direction and
delivery of non-national museum services across the country. Our
concern is to advocate that the benefits of the Renaissance programmesubstantial
increase in visitor numbers, educational attainment, community
involvement, safeguarding and making collections accessiblemust
not be lost, either in the Spending Review outcome or in new arrangements
put in place to deliver it post-MLA.
12. With an ambition to create "national-quality
museums" across England, and in recognition of the need to
deliver more for less, MLA has proposed to the Culture Minister,
revisions to the Renaissance programme. We want to see a Future
Renaissance programme that moves away from a model based on the
granting of cash sums to the nine regional Hubs, and more based
on a model that better targets the available funding to achieve
world class museums nationwide in a way that achieves sustainable
improvement. We have also suggested ways to improve the coordination
of grant funding (including HLF and ACE) and to extend the reach
of the programme to include public record offices where appropriate.
13. We believe it is also important that
the partnerships and functions Renaissance supports across the
countrysuch as the Museum Development network, are maintained
in an integrated model. We also believe that the work of the Leading
Museums initiative (launched by MLA in light of the Renaissance
Review in 2009 and chaired by Professor Tom Schuller) needs to
be taken into account.
14. Spend on museums also needs to take
specific account of funding for university museums. While most
Renaissance funded museums are part of our local government partnership,
there is currently a direct funding relationship with the government
and key university museums.
15. Librarieswith funding
cuts compounded by pressure for council tax freezes, local authorities
will have to take increasingly hard spending choices. There is
an underlying danger, particularly in the absence of MLA or any
equivalent national voice, that libraries (and museums and archives
for that matter) will get squeezed into a no-mans land between
funding for, say theatres, concerts, artists on the one hand,
and local government core services on the other. Services should
be designed around the demand evidenced by research and aimed
to meet the needs of the public, rather than based on organisational
boundaries if mass library closures are to be avoided.
16. As an answer to the financial challenge
faced by libraries, and with the ambition to aim for modernisation
and resist short-term closures and cuts, MLA, in partnership with
the LGA Group, is leading the delivery of the Future Libraries
Programme which will test drive new partnerships and governance
models. The Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey announced on 16 August
10 projects, representing 36 authorities that will deliver this
ambitious change programme in the first instance with the aim
of spreading best practice more widely. The programme is currently
at an early stage of its work.
17. Archiveswith the archive
sector being smaller and having to compete for reduced funding
with higher profile sectors within arts and heritage, it will
be important that the voice of the archive sector, which has benefitted
from cross sector advocacy embodied in the MLA, is not drowned
out in a new framework of integration with the wider arts and
heritage sectors. MLA and TNA jointly developed the government's
strategy and Action Plan for Archives, which advocates better
more joined-up and accessible archive services, a concept which
should be taken forward in the new arrangements. (See also Renaissance,
Role of MLA
The impact of recent changes to DCMS
arm's-length bodiesin particular the abolition of the UK
Film Council and the MLA.
18. This is a time for significant challenge
for our sector. An economy only slowly emerging from recession
and pressures on public spending provide the spur to make even
greater efforts to deliver social, economic and environmental
benefits for people and communities. Reflecting the times the
team at the MLA have worked tirelessly and with commendable commitment
to use newly focussed resources and expertise to support every
locality throughout England, whilst continuing to reduce operating
costs. We are proud of the range and quality of services we have
overseen and are committed to these being reflected in the new
19. The MLA administers key national functions
(and services a number of arms-length expert technical panels
which are vital to the task) including:
Managing Renaissancethe £50
million a year programme which delivers funding to regional museums
ensuring government can effectively influence the direction and
delivery of non-national museum services across the country.
Accrediting and developing museums
to national standards.
Designating vital collections in
Export licensing and providing an
expert service to the arms-length Reviewing Committee (which recommends
export bars on objects of national significance).
AIL (Acceptance of iconic objects
in lieu of inheritance tax) and its arm-length panel.
Government Indemnity and national
securityessential in enabling touring exhibitions.
Funding the Portable Antiquities
Scheme and many smaller, but far reaching and highly valued products
such as Culture 24 and Collections Trust.
The Strategic Commissioning Programmehelping
to build the important relationship between museums and schools
(funded through DCMS and DfE).
National initiatives such as Reference
Online, People's Network.
The Future Libraries Programme.
Working in close partnership with
The National Archives to ensure that archive services are integrated
into wider public service agendas with the ambition of making
them more accessible to the public.
Arts and heritage funding
What impact recent, and future, spending
cuts from central and local government will have on the arts and
heritage at a national and local level?
Whether the current system, and structure,
of funding distribution is the right one?
What level of public subsidy for
the arts and heritage is necessary and sustainable?
20. With tourism being the UK's fifth largest
industry and heritage and culture being the overwhelmingly most
popular reasons for visitors to come here (the UK has five of
the 20 most visited art museums in the world) it makes good business
sense to ensure adequate resources are invested in our arts and
cultural institutions. The economic benefits of the UK's major
museums and galleries alone are estimated to be 1.5 billion per
21. The total national cultural spend amounts
to only 1% of the NHS budget,
in terms of the "quality of life" return, we feel this
represents good value for money on the public purse. Cuts to spending
in an area which already only represents a small slice of public
expenditure, we fear will have a disproportionate affect on social
outcomes. The obvious impact of cuts would include increased closures,
reduced services and less accessible collections.
22. Together with other NDPBs, MLA has supported
the DCMS research programme known as CASE. The data from this
investment has recently begun to show real benefit in relation
to a better understanding of the impact of culture and cultural
engagement onfor examplepublic well-being, confidence
and aspiration. We believe that more can be made of this evidence
in planning future provision for culture and the arts. In particular,
we urge the spreading of better cross-Whitehall understanding
of the benefits and positive social outcomes of culture and the
arts, for instance in relation to health, the ageing demographic,
need for more rounded education, skills development and the development
of a stronger digital strategy for all ages and socio-economic
23. We hope for cleverer investment in museums,
libraries and archives which is not based on short term budget
cuts but will allow greater freedom, flexibilities and stability
to respond to changing public need and deliver long term benefits
What arts organisations can do to
work more closely together in order to reduce duplication of effort
and to make economies of scale?
24. The MLA works closely with relevant
NDPBs and other key bodies to a philosophy that says the user
must be put first and that local government shouldn't be expected
to have separate conversations with government agencies when one
will do. Time and money has been saved by closer collaboration
at regional and national level, particularly between MLA, Arts
Council, English Heritage and Sport England. The Living Places
Programme is a good example of how sharing of a Programme can
make the Programme both cheaper, and more effective.
25. The principles of Total Place also need
to be understood and applied. Essentially, this is a call for
"systems thinking", in which assessments of demand,
benefit and consumer value take priority over more traditional
supply-side economics. There is evidence that "systems thinking"
can bring about more efficient delivery and greater user satisfaction.
Simply sharing services is not enough: Pilots have shown that
the savings and benefits depend on re-shaping services.
26. For greater efficiency and user led
outcomes, we have published on our website the results of work
that promotes amongst museum, libraries and archives the use of
new governance and delivery models which requires:
the support and involvement of stakeholders
in the public, third and private sectors;
looking at ways of co-locating and
working more effectively across local
government boundaries; and
exploring public/private partnerships,
trust status and community ownership.
27. For Renaissance we propose a new model
of central/local funding embedded within a place-based philosophy,
which should include wider organisations such as HLF, ACE and
potentially others. We also need local authorities, universities
and independent museums to create dynamic local partnerships across
the cultural sector and beyond.
Whether businesses and philanthropists
can play a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local
Whether there need to be more Government
incentives to encourage private donations?
28. It is clear from international models
that businesses and philanthropists could play a greater role
in arts funding. Present governance models for much of the sector
mitigate income generation and enterprise resulting in over reliance
on public subsidy and an inability to lever in additional investment.
Many trusts and philanthropists currently exclude local authority
funded services because they consider them to be "primarily
the responsibility of central or local government". However,
the funding disparity between successfully self-funding London-based
arts organisations and those least successfully developing funds
is worth £206.7 million.
29. There are also ways in which government
could change the current taxation system:
Gift Aid could be greatly simplified
and benefit from a composite rate and an automatic opt-out system
for tax households;
The Treasury could agree to offset
the value of cultural/historic objects given to museums, against
the current Acceptance in Lieu scheme
could be extended to allow offers to be offset against Capital
Gains Tax and Corporation Tax, and
the Schedule 3 list (which allows
national, local authority and university museums to buy pre-eminent
cultural objects at a tax-remitted price) should be modernised
to include trust and charitable bodies. This could be achieved
by extending Schedule 3 status to all MLA Accredited institutions.
In 2008-09 national government through
DCMS and its agencies spent £553 million on museums, galleries
and libraries, compared to council spend of £1.8 billion
on libraries, museums, galleries and archives.
Over three funding rounds £291
miilion has been invested in regional museums through the Renaissance
programme. This year, £51 million is budgeted for, £43
million of which goes directly to the Hubs of regional museums.
These museums in turn heavily rely on local government for most
of their operating costs, though in some cases museums are over-reliant
on the Renaissance programme for their day to day costs. This
is a challenge that MLA has been confronting through its field
The 10 phase one areas who are taking
part in the MLA/LGA/DCMS Future Libraries Programme are:
1. Northumberland with Durham
2. Bolton, with Bury, Manchester, Oldham,
Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan
4. Lincolnshire, with Rutland, Cambridgeshire,
North East Lincs, Peterborough
7. Herefordshire with Shropshire
8. Cornwall with Devon, Plymouth, Torbay
9. Lewisham with Bexley, Bromley, Croydon,
Greenwich, Lambeth and Southwark
10. Kensington & Chelsea with Hammersmith
MLA published Sharper Investment
for Changing Times, which sets out how we believe museum,
library and archives services can and should change for the public
benefit in the current economic climate.
46 Cultural Capital: A Manifesto for the Future,
April 2010, pg 5. Back
Cultural Capital: A Manifesto for the Future, April 2010,
pg 11. Back
A&B PIC Report 2009. Back