Memorandum submitted by David Powell Associates
THE ARTS COUNCIL OF ENGLAND: PROPOSALS FOR
I am writing in my personal capacity, as someone
who has worked in the arts and around the arts funding community
in the UK for 30 years. For 15 years I was a Director of Inter-Action
Trust, a national arts organisation which pioneered much innovative
and effective arts work in education and in neighbourhood regeneration.
I direct a private companywhich I set up 10 years agowhich
offers research, business and development services in the creative
and cultural sector and to public authorities in many parts of
the country. I am Chairman of the Board of Camden Arts Centre,
which has an international reputation for its work with visual
artists in education in the visual arts, and which is substantially
funded both by its Regional Arts Board and the Arts Council. However,
for this purpose, I write on my own behalf and in a personal capacity.
My questions are prompted by a desire to look
for clear evidence:
that the Arts Council's proposed
reforms have been carefully planned and costed;
that they will deliver additional
money and professional support more simply and more effectively
to artists and arts organisations;
and that they will preserve one of
the great strengths of the current system which is to enable diversity
of initiative, culture and voice.
The Arts Council has from the outset said that
the reforms will save administration costs of between £8
and £10 million per annum, which would be routed directly
into the support of artists, arts projects and arts organisations.
How have these figures been derived?
Can we be assured that the process which the Arts Council has
put itself through in planning this initiative have been no less
rigorous than those which it requires of its funded organisations?
Arts Council and, to a more modest
extent, Regional Arts Board salaries are far in excess of those
which even reasonably well funded arts organisations can afford
for management and related skills and experience. Can the Arts
Council demonstrate not just that its overall salary bill will
come down and that there will be fewer people working in the arts
funding system, but that the salary levels of those in the proposed
arrangementsparticularly at the senior levelswill
not continue to increase out of all proportion to salaries in
the funded arts sector itself?
What strategies and procedures are
proposed that will deliver this additional money directly and
more simply to artists and arts organisations?
Can the Arts Council guarantee that
savings of at least this level will be delivered to the arts directly
year on year?
How can we ensure that the arts funding
system has a really robust presence at a regional level of government
and resource allocation and with local government, where so much
matched funding is now derived?
How can the Arts Council's proposals
to centralise its chain of management and command be squared with
the Government's intentions to strengthen effective regional public
The proposed savings are around 5 per cent of
the Arts Council's current annual budget (£8-10 million:
£400 million). The effect of the Arts Council's poor preparation
and presentation of its proposals will lead to at least two years
when the best minds in the system are focused on their own internal
processes. I am surprised that so much potential disruption has
been initiated for such a small benefit. Any arts organisation
conducting itself like that should be severely taken to task and,
sooner rather than later, should be required to put its own house
in order or have its funding cut and used for better purposes.
Ironically, in this kind of circumstance, such
a course of corrective action would most likely only have happened
in the six or seven regions with effective, well managed and clear
sighted regional arts boards. However, it seems that it is the
effective operation of just these bodies which is most under threat
from the current proposals. It is with real regret that I find
myself quite unconvinced that the Arts Council's proposals, left
unchallenged and unchanged, will enhance the good practice to
be found in the current system.
It is widely acknowledged that many of the problems
with delivering effective, transparent, and "user-friendly"
grants, awards and professional support emanate from the Arts
Council rather than the regional arts boards. The proposed remedy
for this therefore seems disproportionate and ill targeted. It
is inexcusable that it has been as badly planned and promoted
as it appears to have been.
I would hope that the Arts Council will be examined
closely on these matters as I understand that they go to the heart
of the commitments which the Arts Council have made to ministers
and to the arts community. I would submit that members, ministers,
artists and the public at large now have an expectation that these
commitments should be stated unequivocally and delivered quickly,
transparently and effectively. I would suggest that, before any
irrevocable or precipitate ion is undertaken, a thorough review
of the Arts Council's prospectus be required, including a comparison
of its proposals against credible alternative propositions in
order to examine which presents the best option for artists and
I trust that these matters will coincide with
your Committee's concern's on this important matter, and will
be happy to assist further if that would help.
10 January 2002