The Arts Council of Northern Irelands (ACNI) regional role and functions as an arts development agency in Northern Ireland have been endorsed in a major Review of Public Administration by the Northern Ireland Executive, but its role as a funder of locally-based arts activity will diminish. A major shake-up public bodies in Northern Ireland will see the total number of public bodies fall from 81 to 53 and many responsibilities for services move across to a strengthened local government sector. Announcing the Reviews findings, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, acknowledged that there is a role for quangos in areas such as the arts to continue to operate at arms-length to government, to ensure that decisions can be taken which are more independent of political influence.
For ACNI, the announcement will mean that a shift of responsibility for the funding of local arts projects will take place in 2009, with some of its funds being diverted to local government. Few details have been given yet of the extent to which its arts responsibilities will be diluted, nor the mechanisms that will be put in place to enable the transfer to be achieved, but ACNI Chief Executive, Roisín McDonough has welcomed the announcement and confirmed that the Arts Council will play our part in working with local councils through the arrangements to be established for community planning.
A call to arms length? Christopher Gordon examines the background to UK arts policy p9