Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by North Kesteven District Council (arts 131)

North Kesteven District Council is an innovative high performing authority employing full and part time staff of 388.4 full time equivalents. The District is one of seven in Lincolnshire and covers an area of 356 square miles or 92,000 hectares of which 94% is classed as green open space. Over the last three years the Council has demonstrated continuous year-on-year improvement. The Council has become well known for its cultural services and since 1974 has provided a wide range of services which has enhanced the lives of its residents and visitors. It has a well established arts development team which comprise performing and visual arts who work in rural areas delivering art activity. The arts team – arts NK have been recognised for the expertise they have developed over 20 years and have been commissioned to work in other authorities on major projects. The National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford which was opened in 2003 has the largest contemporary exhibition gallery the UK and delivers 5 main exhibitions a year some which are curated in house and tour both home and abroad. Design Factory a business support organisation for craft makers. Design Factory has been championing the region's craft and design sector for over five years. Through its professional and market development programmes, the organisation has created a brand synonymous with high quality craft and design and a selection model that designer/makers aspire to, increasing competitiveness, and raising the standard of contemporary craft and design produced in the region. The organisation now operates on a regional basis but organises exhibition opportunities both in the UK and abroad. The authority also operates heritage sites which include a water mill, Sleaford Navigation House, Cranwell aviation centre and a museum – Mrs Smiths Cottage.

In 2003 the Leisure and Cultural Services was contracted out in a very innovative partnership with Leisure Connection. The partnership has been extremely successful and the authority is currently considering an integration of the National Centre for Craft Design with Design Factory and arts NK to make efficiency savings and develop a robust arts organisation for the future.

        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;

The nature of our Leisure Partnering contract has to an extent protected our services and the funding they receive from the District Council. The small amount of cuts in grant funding from the arts council has been inconsequential this year, but it is clear that further reductions are inevitable. The Leisure Partnering contract does make provision for the partner and the Council to work together in the event of a loss of funding to either look to obtain new funding or reduce the service accordingly. Although the recent impacts have not had an effect in this authority we have seen neighbouring authorities take more drastic steps. Funding in arts provision has been cut as a non- statutory service, inevitably loosing out when difficult decisions have to be made. A number of Arts Development Officers and Cultural Officer posts have already gone, rural arts centres closed, projects cut back and museums closed. The very real danger is that with further cuts if no protection is offered to arts funding, cultural provision could disappear from rural areas, leaving village and town residents excluded, forced to drive hundreds of miles to access building based, centralised provision.

The leisure and cultural services partnership in North Kesteven District Council has been very beneficial to this authority making savings while maintaining a high quality service. We are currently working with our partner to look at efficiencies by integrating our arts services and making them less dependent on external funding and robust for the future. The arts team are also undergoing an organisation review which will look specifically at other commercial and funding opportunities.

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

We believe money invested in the arts delivers significant benefits , as every evaluation and survey shows, impacting positively on economic, health and social development targets. Gone are the days of art for arts sake. Arts organisations have grown to realise they have to deliver in return for their public funding.

Each organisation has evolved separately to take its place in the counties arts ecology and it was easy to think that our separateness was essential to the artistic product delivered. Like other local authority service areas, we have been looking at where savings can be made or improvements delivered through collaboration, and have started to make the necessary structural changes to reshape the counties arts ecology. Over the last year Lincolnshire has looked at, and started to realise, where we can get best value from local authority and government investment in the arts by working together and by sharing resources, skills and expertise. This has been spearheaded through the Lincolnshire One Thrive Organisational Development review process. Audience Development Officers have been employed to work with a number of venues and a shared funding post is being developed as a way of ensuring all funding opportunities are taken. The joint programming of venues is also being investigated. This is a very different way of operating Arts Services and there is a danger that if resources are withdrawn before there has been sufficient time to develop these important step changes that would make arts organisations more robust and able to survive, the whole thing could fall apart mid evolutionary change.

The private sector should not be discounted in this new way of working. The model here in North Kesteven has proved successful with a private partner operating sports, leisure, arts, visitor attractions and countryside services. Their expertise in marketing, venue operation, and by operating under a trust model has proven successful. Similar arrangements could offer lifeline to arts organisations with a collaborative partnership arrangement and economies of scale.

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

The level of public subsidy of the arts should have a direct relationship to the value of what is delivered. Projects that contribute to societies need, be it social, economic or health related, justify investment from the public purse. But this formula should also be applied to the private sector. Businesses benefit from a healthy culture and a happy community – people want to live and work in places that have a vibrant cultural life – so businesses wishing to expand should be required to invest. The arts have proven that they can shape effective programmes that overlap with the agendas and purposes of a wide range of charities, trusts and agencies. These should recognise the value artists and arts organisations make, and be encouraged to fund them accordingly. The future of arts funding is therefore in a robust formula that shares the responsibility of funding with all those who gain value, either directly or indirectly.

         Whether the current system, and structure, of funding distribution is the right one;

It is the one that has evolved, so it is the best starting point on offer. Arts organisations are capable of change, they can be given a task to respond to need within parameters, and they will come up with an answer. The purpose of government and perhaps local authority funding, is to get as much resource to the point of delivery as possible with minimum spillage or evaporation. ACE has proven it can do this, so unless there is a new form of watertight organisation on the shelf, it should be the trusted to carry on.

The current system of funding distribution may be changed or alternatively reduce and supplemented by other methods of funding which are briefly touched upon later and include perhaps incentives for Private or Corporate funding and Percentage for Art schemes from Developers.

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

The diversion of funds to the Olympics meant smaller projects lost out, and particularly, in our rural district, those that were grown locally, at a community level, disappeared. Whether the Olympics will make a significant return on this investment remains to be seen. The offer of funding for the Cultural Olympiad provides an opportunity to develop projects that can excite communities about the Olympics and provide opportunities for legacy. The funding available was pitiful and in Lincolnshire alone well over 40 projects have applied for just £100,000. Many of these projects will add value by other investment but it is clear the limited funding available will water down the end result and excellent innovative projects will not be realised.

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

If the plan is to return the funds to the original "good causes" then no. If it isn’t, then yes they need to be reviewed. The arts can survive, just about, if the lottery resource is available to rejuvenate thirsty organisations "just in time." The best strategic plan would be to make sure key organisations are sustained to get through the drought and be able to rejuvenate the sector once the Lottery funds begin to flow again.

         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;

We have already seen reductions in Arts Council funding which will result in a reduction of service. Sport England and the loss of funding from the free swimming capital modernisation programme has put a new leisure centre project at risk and could see a leisure centre close within 8 years leaving no public swimming pool for a catchment of 30,000 people. The impact of the arm length bodies mentioned above to this authority has been negligible

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

Yes because we all, individuals, public and private sector, have a vested interest in creating a balanced, happier, society. If the England team are winning, we celebrate; we feel healthier and happier and spend more. It is in the interests of all business to build societies that are culturally aware and active and happy. They should fund arts organisations in proportion to the value they draw from there programmes, visible and obvious as well as less tangible. In times of recession this can be problematic and there needs to be incentives from Government to stimulate this type of investment.

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

Private donations could be away of generating some investment in the arts but the incentives would need to right to encourage this investment. It is unlikely that this could ever replace the funding that has been available through Arts Council and the heritage lottery fund in times of plenty but there are good examples in Europe and in the United States which should be investigated

The potential to evolve arts based plans /  policies for developer lead investment in local communities,  examples already  exist of "Percentage  for Art" within local planning framework documents.  The establishment of firm guidelines for developer investment would help establish certainty for developers and offer a firm plan for the future that would be firmly based in community consultation and delivery.  Recommend  considering the publishing of national guidance /  policy  on art and environment.

In the States of Jersey Percentage for Art, was introduced by in 2007 and encourages owners of large residential or commercial developments to invest a percentage of their development costs into the provision of art in the built environment. Percentage for Art advisors work with the developer, advising them on appropriate artists and art forms as well as managing the commissioning, delivery and installation of the art.

September 2010