Memorandum submitted by Mr Robin Guthrie,
Chair of Yorkshire Arts and English Regional Arts Boards
ARTS COUNCIL REFORM: SOME QUESTIONS
"If Regional Arts Associations did not
exist in all parts of England and Wales we would have to invent
them. Such invention would be difficult, and impossible for any
central body such as the Arts Council of Great Britain or the
Welsh Arts Council to achieve. Certainly neither Parliament nor
Whitehall could create bodies such as the present RAAs: only people
in the regions could do that. And fortunately these people have
already created them." (Lord Redcliffe-Maud Support for
the Arts in England and Wales 1976.)
The Regional Arts Boards of today are the direct
successors of the Regional Arts Associations to which Lord Redcliffe-Maud
referred. The Arts Council has unilaterally proposed to abolish
them. This gives rise to certain questions, which demand an answer.
1. What analysis was made of the arts funding
structure in place at the beginning of 2001?
2. Where is the case for change spelt out?
3. With whom was it discussed?
4. What alternatives were considered and
5. What account was taken of the proposals
for change and improvement made over several years by the RABs
6. When Mr Robinson announced his proposals
he referred to the fact that the local authorities contribute
by subscription some 3 per cent of RAB expenditure. Was he not
aware of the fact that the local authorities contribute some 50
per cent of the public funding of the arts across the country,
and that their subscriptions to the RABs, modest in themselves,
lock them into the national funding system?
7. Did Mr Robinson really think that it
was logistically possible to wind up 10 independent charitable
companies and merge them into the Arts Council in six weeks? What
has been his experience since? (And it is not for want of co-operation
by the RABs themselves, which has been generously and magnanimously
8. What relation do the Arts Council's proposals
bear to Government policies for regional development? In particular,
what role is seen for the Regional Cultural Consortia, the Regional
Development Agencies and the Regional Assemblies to be proposed
in a forthcoming White Paper? How does scrapping the Regional
Arts Boards fit with these proposals? How does it compare with
developments in parallel fields such as sport and film?
9. Where are the results of the two consultations
documented? Were the new proposals massively endorsed? Why did
the Secretary of State endorse the proposals "unequivocally"
before the public consultation about them?
10. What is the change costing, in terms
(b) distraction of all those in the system
from the business of supporting the arts to essentially organisational
and bureaucratic issues?
11. How many consultants have been engaged,
and at what cost?
12. Where will the proposed savings of £8-10
million come from?
13. How far were the savings promised by
Mr Robinson in 1998 achieved?
14. Where is the organisation structure,
and where are the business plan and budget for the new organisation?
15. With whom is the proposed new Royal
Charter being discussed? When might the Privy Council endorse
it? To what extent will it incorporate the objectives of the current
regional arts boards so that they can in good conscience surrender
their responsibilities as charity trustees to an organisation
over which they will have no control?
10 January 2002