Memorandum submitted by Councillor Andrew
Coulson, Birmingham City Council
THE ARTS COUNCIL
I am pleased that you are taking evidence from
the Arts Council of England about its proposals for reforming
I am a board member of West Midlands Arts, nominated
by Birmingham City Council, and a former chair of the Joint Arts,
Culture and Economy Committee of the city council. I am also a
Senior Lecturer and consultant at the Institute of Local Government
Studies at the University of Birmingham.
My points are as follows:
There is nothing in the latest version
of the Arts Council of England's Draft Transfer Proposal that
could not be achieved as well or better with the existing structure,
not least because the Arts Council already approves board appointments
to Regional Arts Boards, and they depend fundamentally on the
Arts Council for funding.
There will be no financial savings
that could not be better made in other waysindeed there
could be substantial extra costs if the quality and range of services
at local level is maintained or enhanced.
No business case has been presented
in a way that would justify the reorganisation.
The local authority sectors has already
been unsettled by the proposals. Many local authorities can see
no reason why they should subscribe to Regional Arts Councils
which are quangos of central government. They might be persuaded
to buy services from them, but that would require complex negotiating
with each local authority separately. More likely they would direct
the money elsewherewith loss of a huge swathe of partnership
working. (Local authority spending on the arts exceeds that of
the present RABs, and local authorities helped set them upeg
by giving the building now used by West Midland Arts.)
The way the proposals have been handled
gives an appearance of central control (eg ability of the Centre
to veto appointments of Chairs of RABs).
The present arms-length structure
is much closer to the government's thinking on regions than the
proposed new model based on a single quango.
The longer the consultation goes on, the more
confusion and loss of morale it engenders.
If continuation of the present legal structures
was made conditional on any specific restructuring that is needed,
the ACE could achieve all its objectives, while saving huge costs
in terms of disruption, personnel costs, compensation and redundancy
payment. This would also release huge sighs of relief across arts
world in the regions.
I would of course be willing to come and give
more detailed evidence if there is an opportunity to do so.
10 January 2002