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


Memorandum submitted by the National Campaign for the Arts

  I am writing to you in advance of the Select Committee hearing in the Arts Council of England's restructuring plans to outline the position of the National Campaign for the Arts (NCA) on this matter.

  At the time of the initial announcement of the restructuring, in March of last year, the NCA took up a position of qualified support for the proposals, in spite of intense reservations and dissatisfaction with the manner in which these changes were sought to be introduced. This position is set out and explained in our response to Prospectus II, a copy of which is enclosed. The grounds for this support were several.

  At the time, a general election loomed. The NCA was concerned that any in fighting within the arts community would damage our chances of achieving positive outcomes in election lobbying. The NCA's campaign during the election did ultimately achieve such outcomes in securing the adoption of over 75 per cent of our recommendations by the Labour Party.

  A further complication was the matter of the 2002 Spending Review. Whilst the NCA sought to canvas opinions and support for a united lobby to DCMS and Treasury for an increase in arts funding, many arts organisations, and the funding bodies themselves, were locked into introspective wrangling regarding structural issues of funding delivery—without the time to work towards increasing the overall value of funding available.

  Our support also sprang from a desire to see realised the stated intentions of the Prospectus for Change. A reduction in bureaucracy is something that all those working within the arts would dearly love to see, and for which the NCA has long been campaigning. We felt it right that, especially given the above circumstances, the Arts Council be given the time and opportunity to demonstrate the validity, benefits and achievability of its aims and objectives. The NCA was also active in working behind the scenes to promote dialogue between ACE and the RABs, in an attempt to identify a compromise or consensus model, under which all parties would be happy to move forward.

  Over the past nine months, however, we have been repeatedly disappointed by the failure on the part of ACE to manage this period of change in anything approaching a competent manner. It appears that the situation which we, through our earlier support, had tried to avoid—that of a divided and embattled arts community—has become a reality. The growing disillusion amongst arts practitioners and the staff of both ACE and the RABs, their loss of confidence in the senior management of the Arts Council itself, has found its way into the national press. It is the firm belief of the NCA that such negative reports are doing immense damage to the reputation and popular image of the arts as a whole. If these reports can be proved to be well founded, and we have seen much evidence to support this view, then the Department of Culture, Media and Sport should itself take action to prevent further damage being done.

  This action has none of the dangers seen elsewhere in government, the case of Railtrack for example, as there is already a fully functioning system in place, with the RABs and ACE sharing responsibility. There has been no convincing business case made for the creation of a single structure and no evidence to prove that the widely touted savings of £8-10 million would in fact materialise. The NCA has been actively touring Regional Arts Boards and has witnessed the high levels of skills and achievements which they can individually demonstrate. We have far more confidence in the possibility of achieving increased efficiency within the current structure than through ACE's proposed unitary structure. The scope for making savings exists to a far greater degree at the centre, than in the vital regional contact points, which offer face to face support to the arts across the UK.

  It is perhaps time to view ACE's proposals for what they really are: an attempt to hold on to power by the centre in a political climate which is increasingly concentrated towards devolving that power to the regional and local levels. We must not allow such ulterior motives to take precedence over the needs, and reputation, of our rich and vibrant cultural sector.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 26 March 2002