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


Memorandum submitted by Making Music


  As the largest umbrella group representing the voluntary music sector, Making Music is pleased to be part of the consultation on the Arts Council's Working together for the arts.

  We are glad that the consultation process for Working together for the arts has taken on a more formal process in contrast to the consultation surrounding the previous Arts Council Paper A prospectus for change.

  In our response to A prospectus for change, Making Music cautiously welcomed the new changes pending a more detailed understanding of what was going to happen. Whilst it contains more detail, we remain concerned that Working together for the arts still leaves a number of practical issues largely unanswered.

  In particular we are concerned that Working together for the arts makes many unsubstantiated assertions, particularly with reference to cost savings. In addition, Annex 3 makes a great many assertions about the roles and responsibilities of the new organisation without much evidence of how this will happen.

  Making Music would have liked to have seen a document in which all the different options for the reorganisation of the Arts Council as mentioned on p 13 of Working together for the Arts were worked through so that a fully thought-out approach to the future of the arts funding system could be planned. We regret to say that this failure to consider other possibilities smacks of a "nanny knows best" attitude reminiscent of the "bad old days" of the Arts Council.

  Our main concern is that the excellent wok currently being undertaken at the grass roots by some of the RABs is not in any way compromised by having to conform to a set of nationally decided priorities bearing no relationship to the needs of arts practitioners on the ground. The success of the restructuring, in our view, will almost entirely depend on the extent to which these almost contradictory needs are properly balanced.

  In our view, none of the structural changes outlined will achieve the desired objectives without a fundamentally new approach to the culture of the new organisation. This includes such aspects as customer service, dealing with the grass-roots and voluntary sector, and interaction with umbrella bodies. We would be deeply concerned if the culture and procedures of the existing Arts Council were perpetuated in the new organisation.

Area 1:


Simplifying the system for the arts community

  It is probable that the new organisation proposed in Working together will simplify the system for the larger arts organisations who work on a national scale. However, the vast majority of clients of the funding system both now and in the future are smaller arts organisations and it is difficult to envisage that they will benefit greatly from the introduction of such a new organisation. These organisations are accustomed to dealing directly with their local Regional Arts Board rather than with the Arts Council. Many have now established strong working relationships with the RABs who in turn respond on a local level to their funding and development needs. A good example of the way in which the RABs respond sympathetically to their regional clients is the introduction over the past few years of the Regional Arts Lottery Programme. This national scheme is applicable to all of England, yet it manages to retain a subtle flexibility in terms of its priorities for funding according to the needs of any one particular English region.

Reducing bureaucracy and duplication

  The proposals in Working together are persuasive in pointing to ways in which this objective can be achieved through the reorganisation. It is regrettably the experience of Making Music and its members that the Arts Council is currently far from being a model of freedom from bureaucracy and therefore this objective seems unlikely to be achieved without a dramatic improvement in the new organisation's working practices. For example, rather than receiving one copy of the consultation prospectus Working together for the Arts, Making Music was sent at least four copies of the document from ACE alone as a presumed consequence of duplication of databases within one building.

Providing greater consistency and fairness across the system

  Ostensibly the proposals would seem to offer greater consistency and fairness if properly implemented. It would indeed be a major advantage for the arts to have a greater amount of consistency and fairness across the system, which experience has shown can be extremely patchy at present. However, Working together offers very little in the way of mechanisms which will guarantee the sound and proper implementation of fairness, indeed it is possible to envisage a situation in which regional executive directors will be unable to agree on issues of consistency when faced with the differing needs of their region.

Channelling administrative savings to support the arts (with a target of £8-10 million per annum)

  It is extremely difficult to tell whether the proposals for the new organisation will meet this financial objective. It is unclear from Working together exactly where in the new organisation the savings will materialise in comparison with the current situation. Furthermore, it seems to us that in large-scale reorganisations such as that proposed in Working together significant savings rarely materialise after the initial activity of reorganisation has died down.

  For example, it is difficult to see how the maintenance of 9 or 10 regional offices will create savings for the new organisation. If staff salaries for the regional offices are inflated in line with the current salary structure of the Arts Council then this will cost the new organisation substantially more in staff expenditure. In theory, it is possible that the judicious use of information technology would allow savings, eg in handling personnel issues and IT activities across the new organisation. However, the outsourcing of these areas of work to a satellite office will not mitigate against the need for some local support staff within each regional office such as a facilities/office manager and personnel manager. It is also possible that centralised accounting for the new organisation and its regional councils will also present an economy of scale.

  Even were the savings to be realised in the short term, we are not convinced that the enormous upheaval of the reorganisation is justifiable, particularly bearing in mind the inevitably substantial transition costs. It should be noted that savings of £8-10 million represent less than 2 per cent of the overall grant-in-aid system (including Lottery funding). This is a substantial figure but could almost certainly be achieved within the current structure through streamlining and proper consideration to economies of scale. Furthermore, if and when these savings are achieved it should be transparently seen to be for the benefit of grass-roots arts activity.

Increased devolution of funding and decision-making to the regions

  It may be true that these proposals would create increase decision-making in the regions. However, if the Arts Council really wants to achieve this, why not simply make a centralised decision to do it? It is surely in the gift of the current organisation to achieve this without the enormous disruption represented by the proposals.

  In addition, the proposals of Working together mean that the Arts Council is building a structure which would allow it to withdraw the decision making at a regional level more easily rather than increasing its devolution. If this objective were to be achieved in the manner in which it is stated then there would have to be a safeguard in the new organisation to ensure that the centre would not be able or willing to withdraw this devolved decision-making in the regions.

  We are also concerned that the work of the regions has not been properly evaluated by the Arts Council and would be keen to see that the new structure was created in light of what really takes place on the ground rather than a London-centric view of regional activity.

Providing greater financial flexibility and capacity

  It is possible that the proposals will achieve this objective. However, it is probable that severe delays can be foreseen in the system. It is likely that there will be a great tension between the regional offices of the new Arts Council for which the Executive Directors might have to enter into extended discussion and argument about the funds set aside for their regions.

Delivering significant cost benefit over future years

  This has already been covered in the comments under the objective "to channel administrative savings to support the arts"—see above.

Area 2:


  Before commenting on each of the specific requirements identified under this question, we would like to express our grave concern that there is only one reference in Working together to development bodies that have a national infrastructure such as Making Music. Although such organisations are less numerous than other more regionalised arts organisations, they offer enormous opportunities to add value, to create economies of scale and to provide additional resource to the funding system. It is surely essential that the needs of these bodies be taken into account when the Arts Council is proposing to reorganise its activities and we trust that further consideration will be given to recognise the contributions made by these bodies. We welcome the proposal in Annex 3 to adopt sensible principles of onward delegations of small grant giving towards agencies and other bodies where appropriate.

Meeting the needs of arts organisations and individual artists

  It is imperative that any reorganisation of the Arts Council, the RABs and their activities takes account of the regional flavours of arts organisations and individual artists. It is the vibrant differences and traditions in the arts from region to region that keep them of interest to their own constituencies. It is completely unclear how the proposals will affect individual arts organisations and in particular voluntary ones. As stated on p 7 of Working together such organisations require a number of things in addition to funding and the proposals, though well intentioned, seem to offer little additional resource to achieve these objectives. Perhaps the Arts Council should listen to the 70-80 per cent of respondents from arts organisations who apparently gave negative views of their first prospectus.

Strengthening services to the arts community, locally, regionally and natonally

  It is difficult to know how services offered by the Arts Council can be strengthened until it is made clear exactly what these services are to be.

  For example, at present the Arts Council offers very few services of relevance to the voluntary arts sector. Therefore, it would be extremely detrimental to the welfare of Making Music's member societies, all of which are voluntary, if the new organisation more greatly resembled the approach to the sector as represented by the present Arts Council rather than that adopted by the ten RABs. Although it is by no means consistent across the whole country, it is true to say that some of the RABs engage regularly and enthusiastically with the voluntary arts and take a special interest in the provision of services for them. However, any worsening in this level of engagement will, in our opinion, be a significant failure in the Arts Council's commitment of care.

  Furthermore, it is not clear how a national infrastructure organisation can be effectively served by a Regional Arts Board. Making Music, for example, is a national organisation with its central administration based in London. Contrast this with for example the professional "national" London orchestras which are based squarely in the capital and undertake touring activities elsewhere. It could seriously affect and limit the scope of activities and development of a national organisation such as Making Music if, as a client, it were able to deal with only one of the new organisation's regional offices rather than the central office itself.

  We note that the proposals of Working together acknowledge the existence and difficult situation of this type of organisation in the second paragraph of Annex 2. However, it is completely unclear what incentives a regional executive office would have to look after a national body properly when it would be subject to the majority demands of its regional clients.

  It is also interesting that the last sentence of the third paragraph of Annex 2 states that if national infrastructure arts organisations are delegated to the regional councils then "The national office will then be able to concentrate on genuinely strategic issues". Rather than reflecting the true needs of the strategically important national arts organisations, this merely highlights how this will benefit the Arts Council itself and not the arts umbrella organisations such as Making Music. Surely this is not reflective of the general approach that Working together propounds in the new organisation of its care for the arts and regional strategies.

Making best use of the funding and resources available

  Since the proposals of Working together are at a preliminary stage, it is too early to tell whether they will make best use of the funding and resources available. For a national infrastructure organisation like Making Music it certainly seems more than logical and beneficial to deal with a single new body rather than with 10 individual and autonomous Regional Arts boards in order to get decisions on potential funding.

  Furthermore, in our opinion, a national and central fund made available for organisations such as Making Music would make much better use of the resources. At the time of writing, for example, we are having to co-ordinate a series of individual applications across the Regional Arts Boards to source funding from the Regional Arts Lottery Programme. It would have been more helpful to have approached a single central organisation to access these funds across the whole of England rather than expending a great deal of time and energy in approaching 10 different organisations.

Providing development services to increase resources for the arts

  The Arts Council has done reasonably well to increase the amount of central government expenditure on the arts in recent years. However, in its wider role of advocacy it appears to us to have a less successful track record.

  Over the past decade the Arts Council has not been particularly strong in convincing the public and the media of the benefits of the arts in terms of the quality of life and contribution to the economy. The proposed reorganisation would help this process somewhat by allowing the central office the time and the freedom to undertake substantial activity in this area. However, we have to say that one of the least helpful activities that can be undertaken in this context is for an organisation to restructure itself, presenting a chaotic and less than unified approach to the public and media. At a time when the arts are in their usual fire-fighting mode, the last thing that is needed is a public argument about who is driving the fire engine.

Enabling effective partnerships with others in support of the arts

  We feel that the proposals of Working together are likely to present a grave danger to enabling effective partnerships with others in support of the arts. The reason for this can be found on a regional rather than a national level. In general, we are of the opinion that local authorities and other development agencies prefer to wok with independent regional offices such as the RABs. They respect the autonomy of the RABs in their support of the arts at a local level and would prefer to deal with administrators who understand this unique perspective.

  Furthermore, the proposals raise one very difficult question. How could regional partnerships which differ so widely from one area of England to another be taken account of in national strategies?

Area 3:


The role for local and regional government on the new regional councils and in relation to the national governing body

  It makes good sense for local government to be included on the regional councils of the new organisation. In addition, in our view, each regional council should include at least one representative from the voluntary sector. Furthermore, if the national governing body is made up of representatives from the new regional councils, then at least one of these at a national level should be a representative from the voluntary sector.

The decision-making role for the regions in relation to regularly funded organisations and flexible funds

  It is not clear how this position would be affected by the proposals of Working Together. There are, however, many unsubstantiated assertions in the proposals about approaches such as "light touches", "simplified processes" and so on. It would seem difficult to adopt these approaches and maintain them across the new organisation and also to give proper flexibility to the regions in their decision making.

The appointment of regionally nominated chairs of the new regional councils to the national governing body of the new organisation

  This proposal makes good sense for a new organisation and will help to maintain a dialogue with the regional councils at the highest level. However, we would envisage that the role undertaken by the regional nominated (volunteer) chairs would be over demanding, particularly since they would be central to both the regionally and central councils. Having a role so onerous that it can only be undertaken by people with an enormous amount of free time surely mitigates against equal opportunities—it is difficult to envisage how anyone who is not either very rich or retired will be able to participate.

Bringing regional and national considerations together at the heart of decision-making for the national body as a whole

  It is not clear how the proposals of Working Together will necessarily achieve this. Making Music feels that what would bring together regional and national considerations to make this happen is the will to do it, rather than a need to change the current system to form a new organisation.


"Three principal constituencies" (p 6)

  There is a fourth constituency, namely those people currently working within the funding system, which remains unconsidered by this chapter. If these proposals result in a loss of expertise and morale within the existing organisations, the new organisation will suffer greatly and so will its many clients.

"The Arts Council provides the central focus for effective negotiation and liaison with government, with other national and international agencies and with representative local government bodies. It also acts as an advocate for the arts as a whole in a manner that commands national media attention" (p 9)

  Making Music sadly disagrees that the Arts Council in its present form acts as an effective advocate for the arts. In recent years, national media attention focused on the Arts Council has not been beneficial but has associated the arts with major difficulties that it will take many years to overcome in the consciousness of the general public. Indeed, it is not clear exactly what the Arts Council advocates on behalf of the arts to the public. If the general public is one of the chief beneficiaries of the Arts Council work then it would be helpful to have a strategy in place to demonstrate what this activity is to achieve and why.

"Many of the problems spring directly from the fact that the system has eleven independent constituent parts. Among the ten RABs themselves, achieving unanimity on any particular question which may arise for them as a group can be a time-consuming process . . ." (p 10)

  Making Music feels that it may be difficult to achieve unanimity between the RABs but this is not as a consequence of their independence. The fact that it is time-consuming to achieve consensus on any particular question is not a reason for the abolition of the participants. An alternative method of achieving unanimity could be to identify stricter lines of responsibility and autonomy.

The need for reform (chapter X, pp 10-12)

  This is an accurate description of the system at present. However, it is an indictment of the people employed by the Arts Council and RABs and their overall performance rather than the system itself. It is disappointing that the issues described in this chapter can be raised about the arts funding system without many voices being raised in opposition.

  Making Music feels that it might have been more beneficial to have examined a range of options for restructuring the system (eg the options put forward by the Chief Executives of the RABs following the publication of A prospectus for change), instead of the Arts Council determinedly pursuing its own solution against all others.

  Similarly, the fact that the RABs are not accountable to parliament could be fixed fairly simply: make them accountable to parliament!

"However, the Arts Council is firmly of the view that, as long as legal separation continues, the system is unlikely either to satisfy the requirement for greater integration of policy, planning and process or to provide a basis for effective leadership of the whole . . ." (p 13)

  Why? There is little or no evidence for this assertion. It is not clear that merely creating one new legal structure will necessarily deliver the integration of policy, planning and process and indeed effective leadership that are laudable enough aims of this document. A large-scale cultural and procedural shift will be necessary.

"The Arts Council is absolutely determined that the new organisation should remain devoted to serving the interests of all arts organisations whatever their scale and wherever they may be based" (p 14)

  Making Music wholeheartedly welcomes this statement. However, it is not our experience, unfortunately, that the Arts Council is especially good at "serving the interests of all arts organisations", particularly voluntary ones. The culture of the new organisation must be able to reflect the best practice espoused by the stronger RABs, particularly with respect to the voluntary arts, and from the outlined proposals it is not clear exactly what form the "absolute determination" will take.

The executive directors . . . (p 16)

  It is our opinion that such a complex matrix management structure as described on this page would be very difficult to implement. What is needed here, as in other areas, are clearer lines of responsibility between the centre and the regions, whatever the legal structure. Furthermore, it is our experience that good regional players do not necessarily make for good national strategists and at the very least, there is potential for major regional/national conflict within the proposed structure.

National/regional roles (p 18)

  Whilst welcoming the principle of subsidiarity which this section appears to endorse, it must be said that there is a danger of compromising any potential cost savings by having such duplication.

Decisions of the organisation (p 19)

  However can this be achieved within the context of guaranteeing autonomy for the regions?

Regional partnerships (p 20)

  We welcome the fact that the new organisation will preserve the regions' existing ability to develop partnerships, although see our comments on p 7 above.

  Clearly benefits are to be had from making the current English regions co-terminous with the other regional development agencies. Also, this would work well in the event of the government continuing in its programme of setting up devolved government within England.

  We agree that there would need to be at least two offices in a new Southern region to cover the vast geographic area and also to serve the large population. Also Making Music is quite concerned about the absorption of Cumbria into a new North West region. Apart from the danger that all of the funding for the arts would be swallowed up by the metropolitan south of the new region, the extremely rural areas in Cumbria would probably be better served by remaining part of the more rural Northern region.

  The final sentence of this section hardly presages an organisation keen to listen to comments from the key constituents it has so readily espoused earlier in the document.

Enhanced capacity and simplified process (chapter X, pp 22-24)

  Many of the ideas in this section are completely unsubstantiated. We agree that "enhanced capacity and simplified process" cannot be achieved through structural change alone. What form will the additional changes take and what is to stop them being taken within the current structure?

A national pool of specialist advisers (p 24)

  There is no reason that we can see why regional advisers should be abolished. How would a national pool be able to reflect regional and cultural differences and in what way would a national advisory system offer improvements over the current position?

Some aspects of transition (p 27)

  To suggest that the total restructuring of a £500 million business can be achieved in a matter of months seems to us to be ambitious. A company of this size—even one run by Gerry Robinson—would typically take two or three years to integrate all the functions effectively and that ignores the need for consultation and consensus that the Arts Council has rather late in the day acknowledged.

  Furthermore, in order to effect the required cultural change for the new organisation, great care should be given to personnel changes, with a plan of open recruitment for the regional executive directors in particular.

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