Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr Peter Stark, Director of the Centre for Cultural Policy and Management at the University of Northumbria


  I write in the knowledge of more comprehensive briefing that will have been provided to you by colleagues and to suggest that the following questions need to be asked of the Arts Council and answered by them.

  1.  It is now six months since the Arts Council indicated that the creation of a single organisation would save administration costs of between £8 and £10 million. On the basis of the detailed work undertaken since then:

    —  Where will these savings come from as between the Arts Council itself and the Regions?

    —  Within the sum to be found from the Regions, how will the savings impact in each RAB area?

    —  How much of the saving will be available in 2003-04 and then in 2004-05?

    —  What are the current estimates of the "one off" costs of the restructuring?

    —  What is the current estimate for the increase in average salaries between the current and proposed structure at junior, middle and senior grades?

    —  How do these new salary levels in the funding system compare with those currently available in, say, regional theatres and galleries?

  2.  On the basis of information provided to them to date and with reference to their duties under charity law, it is likely that a number of the RABs will not agree to wind themselves up.

  What action does the Arts Council intend to take where RABs determine that it is the best interest of their Region and the arts to retain their autonomy?

  3.  Within the UK, the arts in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland are funded by wholly autonomous Arts Councils providing detailed knowledge of local conditions whilst maintaining an international perspective.

    —  Why—given that these national Arts Councils operate with populations and arts infrastructures far smaller than those in the average English Region—should regional cultural diversity in England not continue to be recognised through the existence of the current modestly autonomous structures?

  4.  During the last 45 years a succession of enquiries have—somewhat contrary to their initial instincts—found in favour of a national structure composed of a centre and regions with a substantial degree of autonomy. Parliamentary Select Committees, Jennie Lee, Lord Redcliffe Maud, William Rees Mogg and Richard Pulford, Richard Luce and Richard Wilding—as well as a succession of foreign commentators—have all studied the structure and its internal balances and concluded that its basis was sound.

    —  What changes in society or the arts make the current Arts Council proposals the right ones?

  5.  The nature of English society produces an in-built tendency towards a national arts policy based on the priorities of the largest arts institutions (mostly though not exclusively London based) working in an alliance with broad-sheet and broadcast media commentators and art form interests in the Arts Council and government (all London based). It has been the English Regions—working together and often in partnership with artists' and local government organisations—that have been able to produce a countervailing force to the interests of this lobby. They have been able to speak powerfully for a far broader constituency of artists and for a more general public—including non-metropolitan London.

    —  What "checks and balances" will there be in the new system when elements of the centre—in government, in the civil service or at the Arts Council—are inadequately, ignorantly or incompetently led as they have been too frequently in the past?

  6.  There are two fundamental reforms to the present system that have been necessary for at least the last 15 years. First, the need to create—once and for all—a very substantially smaller and strategic Arts Council at the centre; and secondly, the need to confront and then strengthen under-performing RABs. The prospectus addresses the first but instead of addressing the second directly it has visited trauma on the whole system. The creation of an "everything changes" review is obviously attractive as it provides cover for change inside the Arts Council that the current management has already failed to deliver once. It also, however, disguises Arts Council failure to address a totally unacceptable differential in the performance of the RABs for many years.

    —  What justifications can the Arts Council give for dismantling current arrangements in regions with RABs that they openly acknowledge to be extremely successful and role models for others?

9 January 2002

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