Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Northamptonshire Museums Forum (arts 23)

1. 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;

1.1 There are concerns that scale of the cuts will cause problems for the museum sector and will undermine the gains of the last 10 years.

1.2 Many museums in Northamptonshire are run by volunteers and the independent sector. Support provided by REM has been vital to help these organisations to grow and develop professionally and address sustainability and business development issues as well as improving access to their services and collections. Cuts to Renaissance or future funding for the regions museums would impair this development. Through REM museums and heritage have developed stronger links with the tourism sector and heritage has been recognised as important. This needs to continue to be developed and cuts could damage this.

1.3 Many of these organisations are a focus for community volunteering and participation. As a result of REM support many organisations are now in a position to lever further funding into the county from HLF (This is evidenced by a current increase in applications being developed in the county) and other charitable organisations. Cuts would impair this development.

1.4 There are two museum services run by local authorities in Northamptonshire and one developing service. Pressure on LA budgets could cause cuts to services including shorter opening hours and less programming. LA are also not filling vacancies whilst cutting back on education activities and programming which can lead to a lack of expertise in developing museum services at a point when strategic direction is so important.

1.5 In a time of economic recession museums can offer accessible safe opportunities for activity by individuals. Places of art and creativity are nourishment for the spirit and encouragement for everyone in times of adversity; these are vital components for tourism, the economy, quality of life, cultural creativity and personal well-being. In the current climate especially, museums, libraries and other cultural services are at significant risk.

2. What arts organisations can do to work more closely together in order to reduce duplication of effort and to make economies of scale;

2.1 Many museums across the county already work closely together through organisations such as the Northamptonshire Museums Forum and on an individual basis. Organisations are also brought together on joint work through the Heritage Framework led by the county council. There is further scope for organisations to work together, however this will require facilitation and support to encourage this to take place particularly as organisations across the county are structured and funded in many different ways, and some may be run by volunteers while others run by paid staff.

2.3 There is a need for museums to work more closely with other cultural bodies such as arts, libraries and heritage particularly around provision of learning services to provide a more joined-up approach.

2.4 There is a need for stronger tourism support for museums and heritage.

3. What level of public subsidy for the arts and heritage is necessary and sustainable;

3.1 The arts and heritage currently receive a very small subsidy from government compared to funding from other sectors. This small subsidy generates substantial gain through tourism and arts industry. There are also gains in the community through participation and volunteering, and opportunities for vulnerable people. In the museum sector in Northamptonshire this small subsidy through renaissance supports the voluntary museum sector including over 3000 volunteers and wider than this, the local community.

3.3 Museums will require a mix of public and private subsidy. Philanthropists writing to the arts council have stated that there are probably not enough philanthropists to support the sector and also cutting edge developments may not happen under philanthropy or sponsorship.

4. Whether the current system and structure of funding distribution is the right one;

4.1 Support for voluntary and independent organisations is very important to help develop their sustainability for the future and a strong business direction. Renaissance is currently delivering this through frontline support for organisations. Specifically in Northamptonshire museum development reaches a wide number of organisations across the county. The Renaissance structure in the East Midlands has the opportunity to link local knowledge with a wider strategic view. It is important to link the two perspectives.

4.2 Renaissance supports 51 museums in Northamptonshire through museum development in the areas of sustainability and business planning, collections care, learning, developing new audiences and engaging with communities, and volunteering.

5. What impact recent changes to the distribution of National Lottery funds will have on arts and heritage organisations;

5.1 Freeing up more lottery funding for heritage and arts is positive but as other funding streams decrease this will become more competitive.

5.2 The application process is currently very bureaucratic.

5.3 Many organisations require support from development workers outside of HLF to develop a structure and capacity to secure funding or to be encouraged to apply.

6. Whether the policy guidelines for National Lottery funding need to be reviewed;

6.1 Currently the application process is very bureaucratic.

6.2 The focus on volunteering is good for independents and the voluntary sector but if there is less local authority and government funding for museums then the application process needs to be made easier for local authority museums.

7. The impact of recent changes to DCMS’ arm’s-length bodies - in particular the abolition of the UK Film Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council;

7.1 The loss of MLA is particularly relevant to the museum sector as this was the body that represented the sector.

7.2 Museums are particularly important in the current economic climate. It is important that we have a strategic body with museums as one of its principal functions, rather than a minor department in another quango.

7.3 It is also important that the following MLA functions are secured: Accreditation scheme. Many museums including volunteer community museums have worked hard to reach the best practice of accreditation standards and need to be reassured.

Designation – this is a lifeline for significant regional collections.

Government indemnity scheme

Acceptance in lieu

Representation of the museum sector

Renaissance (This funding has addressed a previous chronic underfunding in the sector. Renaissance funding is necessary to continue developing organizations to help improve access to museums for all.)

8. Whether businesses and philanthropists can play a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local level;

8.1 As it is now, funding needs to be a mix from businesses, philanthropists, but also from the public sector.

8.2 We currently do not have a philanthropic culture in the UK. This would take many years to develop.

8.3 The cutting edge in arts and also some work that involves making culture accessible is unlikely to be funded by philanthropy.

8.4 It may also be harder to attract philanthropy in the heritage sector perhaps where the outcomes of work is more community focused and therefore less glamorous, and not as associated with an artistic finished product such as an exhibition or performance.

8.5 Sponsorship may also not be applicable as it is dependent on a fit with a company’s principles and can also create ethical problems. The American model results in art activity through philanthropic subsidy often being restrictively expensive and therefore not accessible to all.

8.6 It may be important to develop funding from businesses and philanthropists, however this may take many years to become embedded.

8.7 There are concerns that while philanthropy may be attractive in London among the bigger institutions with established brand, this is not so for organisations outside of London and relatively small community museums and local authority museums where philanthropy will not make up for cuts in public funding.

9. Whether there need to be more Government incentives to encourage private donations.

9.1 Yes tax incentives

9.2 But creating a culture of philanthropy cannot necessarily be achieved through legislation.

August 2010