Further details of the Arts Council of England's plans for restructuring the country's arts funding system have been issued with the publication of 'Working Together for the Arts', a document outlining the proposed structures, estimated time-scales and likely costs of merging the efforts of England's national and regional funding bodies.
Further details of the Arts Council of England's (ACE) plans for restructuring the country's arts funding system have been issued with the publication of 'Working Together for the Arts', a document which outlines the proposed structures, estimated time-scales and likely costs of merging the efforts of England's national and regional funding bodies.
According to ACE, the benefits of the changes will be "...greater leadership and authority regionally and nationally; less red tape and greater simplicity for artists; and a strengthened voice in making the case for the arts."
The next step for ACE is to gain agreement for the core principles of change, which it hopes to achieve by early autumn. The legal process for transferring ACE and RAB assets to a new organisation could, with co-operation on all sides, be achieved by the end of this year, and the end of the financial year is being viewed as a milestone for the integration of financial, IT and other support systems.
£8m has been earmarked for the transitional costs including specialist staffing, professional fees and the costs of redundancy, but ACE believes that these costs will be more than offset by cost-savings during a single year of operation under the new structure. By 2003 it estimates that £8-10m a year will be released from administration costs, all of which will be made available for arts initiatives, specifically those involving individual artists and cultural diversity.
The new organisation will consist of three elements: a national strategic office, corporate support services and regional executive offices. The national strategic office will employ fewer than 80 people. Its role will include the development of national policy and strategy for implementation through the regions, as well as the development and implementation of major national programmes. Advocacy initiatives and partnership initiatives with national and international bodies in the arts and non-arts sectors will stem from there. Corporate support services, including finance and grants management, human resource strategy, information systems management and procurement will be centralised and are likely to be located in a separate office, probably outside London.
Executive directors of each regional office will, for operational purposes, report to regional councils, but their line management will be directly to the chief executive of the national body. Specialist officers will be based in the regions, but leadership of cross-regional teams will come from the centre.
The adjustment of current RAB boundaries in line with other regional agencies is still seen as a highly desirable outcome, though ACE has conceded that two offices may be required to deal with the extensive remit of the South East region, and is awaiting research findings before finalising its plans for the south of England. A similar exercise in Cumbria will determine the remits of the Northern and North West Arts regions.
A further period of consultation about the restructuring will now run until September 14, during which time the arts community and regional partners are being invited to put forward their views. Several Regional Arts Boards have already published their initial reactions to the latest document, with some still voicing doubts about the claims that ACE is making for the potential benefits to be realised from the new structure.
London Arts has stated that it will consider the new proposals "with an open mind", but is not convinced that there would be any net benefits after taking into account the "cost, time and energy involved in the implementation of the proposals". Southern Arts, which is the only RAB to face extinction under the new proposal, is equally negative. Chief Executive Robert Hutchison said: "We think that it is not in the public interest that the forthcoming consultation period should be entirely based on the Arts Council's proposals for a single organisation, rather than also examining cheaper and better ways of improving the system of arts funding and development. Southern Arts Board is opposed in principle to the idea of a single organisation for arts funding."
Working together for the arts? can be found at http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/towards/ or call the ACE enquiries line for more information t: 020 7973 6517.