Memorandum submitted by Mr Peter Stark,
Director of the Centre for Cultural Policy and Management at
the University of Northumbria
THE ARTS COUNCIL OF ENGLAND
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.
Whygiven that these national
Arts Councils operate with populations and arts infrastructures
far smaller than those in the average English Regionshould
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 havesomewhat contrary to their initial instinctsfound
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 Wildingas well as a succession
of foreign commentatorshave 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 Regionsworking together and often in partnership
with artists' and local government organisationsthat 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 publicincluding
What "checks and balances"
will there be in the new system when elements of the centrein
government, in the civil service or at the Arts Councilare
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 createonce and for alla
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