Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Richard Griffith (arts 229)


I wonder whether the following point might be useful context for the CMS Committee’s inquiry into the Funding of Arts and Heritage.

Last Thursday Francis Maude called his plans for the reform of public bodies "an example of the government’s commitment to radically increase the transparency and accountability of all public services". This prompts me to send the attached paper which was published in the September edition of the journal Cultural Trends, [Griffith, Richard(2010) ‘Listed building control? A critique of historic building administration’, Cultural Trends, 19: 3, 181-208].

The paper describes how there is little or no information about the main parameters of listed building control:

(i) the number of listed buildings is unknown;

(ii) their taxonomy is unresearched;

(iii) the performance of the control is unmonitored.

Overviews of the scope and effect of the control across the country have never been surveyed - not even to discover whether it is operating at all.

The absence of basic evidence raises a question of governance: is it proper or equitable to operate a statutory control that is neither transparent nor accountable? The paper contrasts the lack of relevant and reliable information about listed building control with the levels of evidence that are expected in other areas of public administration. The paper also demonstrates how straightforward it would be to produce appropriate evidence, giving several simple and economical examples. It even includes the raw data from an independent nationwide survey of the control’s actual performance for 2007-08.

Given the lack of evidence about the scope and effect of listed building control, I wonder whether the Select Committee might consider recommending to the Secretary of State that, in order to start making the control transparent and accountable, a systematic monitor of the control’s performance should be introduced? Whether the existing regulatory functions stay with English Heritage, go to DCMS or end up elsewhere, they are overdue for reform.

October 2010