The Arts Council of Wales (ACW) has submitted its response to the Welsh Assembly Government?s enquiry into Public Sector Reform (see ArtsProfessional issue 80, August 23), in which it underlines its opposition to recent proposals for its integration into the civil service. Its report, Future Arrangements for Supporting the Arts in Wales, makes clear ACW?s view that the best interests of the arts, and of the Assembly Government, would be served by retaining an arm?s-length relationship between the two, and that ?integration is not a feasible option and? would have undesirable consequences.?
The report points to ACW?s role as a Lottery distributor ? a role which the Assembly is currently forbidden by law from taking on ? and warns that the overall strategic vision for the arts in Wales would be lost if the allocation of revenue funding and Lottery funding were to be treated separately. Drawing on the experience of countries where arts policy and funding come directly from government, ACW concludes that direct funding of the arts has worked only in countries where there are enshrined rights for artists, and where the principal organisations that implement government policy are also part of government. It cites the German Government?s repeated attempts to reduce the number of opera houses and orchestras in Berlin as an example of the ?challenges? that can arise under such a system.
Chris Ryde, the National Organiser for Equity in Wales and Chair of the Wales Association for the Performing Arts, has written to First Minister Rhodri Morgan echoing some of the points raised by ACW. He said ?It is true that our sector and the Arts Council have differences in opinion from time to time, and we have not always supported ACW?s decisions or their processes, but that does not provide a clear-cut argument for the Council?s abolition. ?We believe [our criticisms] only serve to strengthen, not undermine, the relationship between the Council and its clients? it would be regrettable as well as regressive for Ministers, Assembly Members, and Civil Servants to be at the mercy of individuals who would invariably and repeatedly lobby all such parties in order to advance their claims for increased resources.?