RESPONSE TO THE ARTS COUNCIL OF ENGLAND'S
PROPOSAL "WORKING TOGETHER FOR THE ARTS"
This response reflects the views of Northern
Arts Board and views from its clients and partners.
"Northern Arts remains to be convinced
by the Arts Council's proposals for a single organisation. We
positively welcome the Secretary of State's commitment to devolution
but now need to establish more detail on how regional policy autonomy
and devolution will be safeguarded."
We welcome a number of changes made since the
Arts Council's original Prospectus and seek to identify the key
outstanding issues on which Northern Arts Board will be seeking
clarification, safeguards or changes in the final proposals. Northern
Arts wrote to the Arts Council in August asking specific questions
as a Board and employer and looks forward to receiving a response.
Northern Arts has often been quoted throughout
the process as a model Regional Arts Board (RAB). It has an experienced
staff and Board, a high regional profile, well known brand, innovative
investment programmes, strong regional partnerships and efficient
internal systems. Prior to the Prospectus, our Customer Survey
showed exceptionally high levels of satisfaction with Northern
Arts' service delivery. Consultation on the proposals has consistently
reinforced the high regard in which our agency is held in the
Northern Arts made it clear in response to Prospectus
1 that it did not see a "single organisation" as the
best model for the arts in England. We do, however, recognise
that the Secretary of State has now given "unequivocal"
support to the single organisation. The Secretary of State has
also given a commitment to seeing devolution at the heart of the
proposals. Northern Arts now wishes to achieve safeguards and
clarity about the levels of devolution and regional policy autonomy
within any new structure. We also wish to secure further improvements
to the proposals to make them workable within the region.
Our consultations across the region inform this
response. In particular we wish to see:
Devolution enshrined in the constitution
of the new organisation.
Greater regional policy autonomy
to respond to regional priorities as well as national policy.
Clarification on the levels of devolution.
Recognition of the need for regional
determination of specialist staffing in the regions.
A focus on quality of service delivery
rather than the cost driven model proposed in the document.
Retention of Northern Arts' name
Northern Arts Board recognises that there have
been significant changes from the original Prospectus:
Regions are more central to the proposals.
There are promises of greater devolution
with potential for all Lottery to be devolved.
All funding decisions on arts organisations'
grants will be taken regionally.
Regional Boards will be retained
in the form of Regional Councils, nominated from within the region.
Regional Chairs will form the majority
of a new National Council.
Regional Chairs will be nominated
regionally for agreement by the Secretary of State.
All Regional Executive Directors
will join the National Management Team.
There are some new measures to involve
Local Government nationally.
There is some recognition of regional
roles in advocacy, partnership development and advice as well
The success of the Regional Arts
Lottery Programme (RALP) and Year of the Artist are recognised
as models of national projects run with regional priorities.
National policy will be informed
by the regions.
The Regional Councils will appoint
their own staff.
There is agreement to take account
of the study on Cumbria in relation to proposed boundary changes.
Northern Arts would like to see clarifications,
safeguards and further improvements in the following areas:
Regional policy autonomy. We require
the ability to allocate funding according to regional priorities.
This is currently delivered via national programmes such as RALP
but also in regionally distinctive work such as our focus on cultural
business investment or public art commissioning.
A critical test of whether the proposals
represent devolution or delegation is whether the regions are
controlled in their devolved decision making. To achieve devolution
there would need to be removal of any right of the National Council
to revoke regional decisions when they do not meet national policy.
The future structure needs to recognise the work of RABs with
other regional partners who have their own regional or local priorities.
We would expect there to be national
safeguards and lines of accountability for Government and Treasury
funding but, as is currently the case, these can be exercised
by the national Board approving regional corporate delivery plans
There needs to be greater clarity
on the level of devolution, which budgets will be devolved and
the framework for devolved decision making powers. The region
believes that there should be total devolution of Lottery funding.
We wish to see the retention our
brand name 'Northern Arts' and the eye logo. Northern Arts has
a strong regional brand which contributes to regional identity
of the arts. Arts organisations and regional partners have spoken
out strongly and view this as a brand owned by the region, not
just Northern Arts. There is concern amongst arts organisations
at the cost to them in changing print and constitutions as a result
of a name change in the region.
We need the flexibility to determine
what specialist staffing is required to deliver regional partnerships.
Northern Arts has designed its staffing to deliver specific services
such as our work in advising on arts commissions, cultural industries,
arts in education and Lottery capital planning. We will require
a regional finance function to provide quality of service delivery
on grants, to provide external support to clients and to monitor
complex regional funding from a range of sources. This is seen
as critical to our partnerships with other external agencies.
The document refers to "light
touch" which implies a reduced or different level of contact
with arts organisations. Whilst this will be welcomed in some
cases, we need to reflect the needs of the clients, particularly
in developing sectors.
We wish to maintain artform expertise
at a senior level in the region. Clients have stressed the importance
of having adequate officer support. Whilst people welcome a lighter
touch in monitoring and assessment, this has been confused by
the Arts Council with the valued advice and contact which clients
appreciate from specialist officers. Organisations have commented
that they don't just want to see their RAB when there is a crisis
but value the practical advice in areas such as finance, recruitment
and business planning which will help avoid future crises.
Northern Arts is not convinced that
the Arts Council's savings targets are either achievable or desirable
and sees quality of service delivery as something which is valued
by regional artists, clients and partners. Whilst we recognise
that the majority of the savings will be made in London, we need
to see how the savings will be made in practice. There was a unanimous
view in consultation that artists and arts organisations would
rather see quality of service ahead of token savings on administration.
The role of RABs in resource development
and fundraising for the sector is in many ways as important as
their role in overseeing effective investment of their own funding.
There needs to be greater clarity
over the size and nature of the "centre" and how it
will engage with regional specialist expertise. Regional clients
have commented on artform leadership, suggesting that arts organisations
in the North don't look to London for their artform leadership
but to the regions and Europe.
There was also a view expressed that
artform leadership is primarily delivered by artists and arts
leaders working at the coal face not by ACE or RAB staff and that
more resources should be directed to support external networks
in various artforms.
The proposals need to offer clarity
and improved arrangements for input of Regional Assemblies and
The proposals offer fewer places
in number on Regional Councils for Local Authorities. We need
to know whether there is room for regional difference where there
is strong Local Authority support for the arts. In the Northern
region we have effective mechanisms in place to allow for geographic
and demographic spread of Board nominations from Local Government.
In terms of Cumbria and boundaries,
we have now concluded an initial study on how Cumbria might transfer
to the North West. Northern Arts Board has always stated that
it wishes to retain Cumbria, but that any decision has to be taken
by Cumbria itself. In developing the brief for the study, it was
concluded that the study should concentrate on the issues surrounding
any proposed transfer. Northern Arts and North West Arts have
issued a joint position statement and a draft of the report has
been delivered to the Arts Council. It notes that such changes
inevitably incur costs not savings. In the event of a transfer
it calls for a swift resolution on funding transfers by 31 October
2001 to avoid planning blight. The report also stresses that there
would still need to be cross border working and that there should
be no detrimental effect on arts organisations on either side
of the Pennines.
Northern Arts Board has said that
if Cumbria is to transfer, it has to be a decision of the Arts
Council, as the preference of Northern Arts and the majority of
Cumbria clients is to retain relationships with Northern Arts.
The Royal Charter of the new body
needs to provide constitutional safeguards for the position of
having Regional Chairs on the National Council.
Devolution also needs to be enshrined
in the Royal Charter.
We need written proof that regional
funds such as European Regional Development Fund, Regional Development
Agency funding and charitable funds can still be received by regional
Northern Arts Board wants to see
safeguards for its staff, not least to ensure that valued expertise
is maintained in the region.
9 January 2002