Funding of the arts and heritage - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents


Written evidence submitted by London Borough of Richmond upon Thames Arts Service (arts 116)

1.  SUMMARY

  1.1  The UK cultural sector is internationally respected and admired. As we move towards new models and levels of funding arts and heritage, it is important that we maintain and develop the effectiveness and dynamism of our cultural sector.

  1.2  Central and local government cuts have already had a short term impact on the scope of our activities as a local authority arts service, and upon the outcomes we are able to deliver for our local residents through culture.

  1.3  It is important to note that the cultural sector is affected by direct cuts to culture budgets, but also by cuts to other departmental budgets as these departments pass on cuts to cultural partners.

  1.4  The likely impact of future cuts will be that fewer people have access to the transformative potential of cultural opportunities, with the most vulnerable in society likely to be the first to loose out as programmes promoting equality of access for these audiences always require a higher level of initial investment than universal provision.

  1.5  The cultural sector is keen to work closely together to reduce duplication of effort and make economies of scale; one risk is that such co-ordinated working and economies of scale may be harder to achieve in future without the infrastructure provided by arms-length organisations such as MLA.

  1.6  When considering the benefits of economies of scale, it is vital to balance these against the importance of localised delivery models.

  1.7  Like many cultural organisations, we currently operate on a mixed economy of funding including direct local authority budget allocations, commissioning, grants, income generation, and some sponsorship. This entrepreneurial approach keeps our programme fresh and dynamic but also carries a risk of short-termism. We welcome plans to allocate 60% of Lottery funding to the arts, sport and heritage causes.

  1.8  MLA has had a positive influence upon the impact we make within our local community, the rigor with which we evidence these impacts, and the efficiency with which we achieve them through partnership delivery. Without a similar body, there is a risk of fragmentation, duplication and loss of quality and innovation across our sector.

  1.9  We are keen to work more closely with business and philanthropists to support and develop our programmes. However our experience highlights a number of issues relating to business and philanthropy as funders of the arts and heritage at a local level which need to be addressed for this to be a viable funding approach across the sector.

2.  IMPACT OF RECENT, AND FUTURE, SPENDING CUTS FROM CENTRAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT WILL HAVE ON THE ARTS AND HERITAGE AT A NATIONAL AND LOCAL LEVEL

  2.1  In recent meetings with international colleagues from the museum and wider cultural sectors, we have repeatedly been struck by the admiration with which the UK cultural sector is regarded. The UK is admired internationally as a country that values and is willing to invest in its culture and its heritage; progressive and enlightened in its approach and leading the way in terms of the integration of cultural and social policy and the coherence and co-ordination of its cultural sector. This leading global position is the result of years of investment in our sector. In this context, it is vital that spending cuts are structured to avoid undermining the fruits of this investment.

  2.2  As a local authority service, we are already feeling the initial impact of central and local Government cuts. These have included the cancellation of a pilot project to recruit and train volunteers to act as Community Learning Champions encouraging more adults to get involved in learning opportunities (MLA funded), and the reduction of funding for cultural activities for children and families in parks in the borough's deprived wards, and for positive activities for vulnerable young people (local authority funding). The loss of the Youth Opportunities Fund (YOF) has resulted in disappointment for many of the young people we work with who had put together applications for projects and will certainly result in a reduced offer for young people locally as well as removing the opportunity for active participation in shaping the offer that YOF promoted. The withdrawal of Mediabox funding has also adversely affected our intended youth offer this year. In terms of our ability to support 14-19 pathways, the removal of the Diploma Development Partnership and Regional Advisors, and the planned removal of the Diploma Formula Grant from 2011, have impacted upon schools' ability to work in partnership with the cultural sector, in light of our successful pilot of a Creative and Media Diploma project with a local consortia in 2009-10 which we were hoping to replicate.

  2.3  An important point to consider is that the cultural sector is not only affected by cuts to DCMS budgets or to local Cultural Services budgets. As well as facing these sector-specific government cuts, the fact that we have developed sophisticated partnership delivery models to ensure we are delivering on wider local priorities ensures we will be dramatically affected by reductions in spending across many other departments who currently commission us to deliver services. Locally, these include Environment, departments across Children's Services especially Youth Services and Services for Children with Disabilities, and the PCT. Nationally, cuts to a range of Departments including the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills would be likely to impact upon our sector above and beyond cuts to DCMS.

  2.4  In terms of future cuts, we are anticipating a significant impact upon the offer we are able to provide and the contribution we are able to make to the delivery of local priorities through partnership working. With reduced staff capacity combined with reduced departmental budgets across the authority and reduced opportunities to seek project funding from central government funded sources (such as ACE, MLA, Renaissance) it seems inevitable that we will have to reduce the scope of our activities. The likely impact of this is that fewer people will have access to the transformative potential of cultural opportunities, with the most vulnerable in society likely to be the first to loose out as programmes promoting equality of access for these audiences always require a higher level of initial investment than universal provision for those already confident in accessing cultural opportunities. The role culture can play in enabling people to escape social isolation and play a more active part in their communities would seem to be vital in the building of the Big Society.

3.  ARTS ORGANISATIONS WORKING MORE CLOSELY TOGETHER IN ORDER TO REDUCE DUPLICATION OF EFFORT AND TO MAKE ECONOMIES OF SCALE

  3.1  The cultural sector is keen to work closely together to reduce duplication of effort and make economies of scale; this has been encouraged in recent years through funding structures promoting partnership working and commissioning on a local level, particularly between the public and third sectors. Larger scale sector projects, such as those delivered by the regional Renaissance Hubs, have also helped promote this approach. One risk however is that such co-ordinated working and economies of scale may be harder to achieve in future without the infrastructure provided by arms-length organisations such as MLA.

  3.2  When considering the benefits of economies of scale, it is vital to balance these against the importance of localised delivery models. Local authority arts and heritage services and their third sector partners are uniquely placed to deliver bespoke programmes to meet specific local needs, responding to need at the level of individual wards. This approach ensures resources are targeted effectively, as well as promoting equality of access by minimising some of the barriers to access (from barriers relating to financial and transport issues to those relating to personal confidence) that might exist in relation to larger, more centralised cultural institutions. Cultural settings can also play an important part in identifying wider local needs as they can provide a less intimidating, more welcoming environment than many "civic" buildings.

4.  THE PUBLIC SUBSIDY FOR THE ARTS AND HERITAGE

4.1  The current system, and structure, of funding distribution

  In this section we will explore the nature of the current system in terms of our specific experience as a local authority arts service, rather than commenting more widely on the sector as a whole. We currently operate through a mixed model of funding including:

    — direct funding from local authority allocated Cultural Services budget;

    — commissioning by other local authority departments including other departments within Education, Children's and Cultural Services;

    — commissioning by external partners including schools, PCT, Renaissance Hubs, MLA;

    — project-specific grant funding from lottery distributors, trusts, charities and other bodies including ACE, HLF, MLA, Renaissance, Niace, engage, Richmond Parish Lands Charity, Barnes Workhouse Trust, Hampton Fuel Allotment Charity, Double O Charity;

    — income generation through event ticketing, sales of artworks, retail, functions bookings and facilities hire;

    — corporate sponsorship; and

    — donations and individual giving.

  This varied model of funding ensures that we represent excellent value for money locally as we proactively fundraise approximately half our annual turnover as well as generating external investment in major capital projects. Through being commissioned by other teams within the local authority, we have become an integrated part of the delivery model for a range of core services including services for families, for young people, for children and young people with disabilities and for Children Looked After. This means we are also drawing on wider budgets as well as delivering wider outcomes than those traditionally allocated to `culture'.

  Our entrepreneurial approach to attracting external investment means that we are both proactive and responsive when it comes to securing grant funding. In order to sustain and develop our offer to meet local needs we must seek to identify good fit between these local priorities and the criteria of various grant awarding bodies and national programmes. This helps to ensure that the projects we plan are rigorously aligned with both local and national priorities as well as encouraging us to design projects that represent good value for money in order to increase our chances of being awarded external grant funding. When funding opportunities arise (for example the Transformation Fund which accompanied the publication of the Learning Revolution white paper) we must assess how these new opportunities can be aligned with existing priorities to enrich or develop our provision. This responsive element to our work has over the years ensured that we are constantly developing our practice and our offer and sharing what we learn through these projects with colleagues across the sector. Our work is never static.

  This emphasis on attracting external investment, combined with the preference amongst most grant awarding bodies for innovation, does however carry a risk of short-termism. While it is relatively straightforward to source funding to pilot a new set of activity to meet local need, it is often challenging to sustain that activity, even where the pilot increases evidence of need and creates a sustained demand. This potentially undermines the impact of many projects, particularly those which aim to broaden access to culture, as there is a risk that we encourage new audiences to engage with culture but then fail to offer them any further opportunities for engagement, turning what might have been a powerful project with a lasting legacy into something of a "tick-box" exercise which lets down the very people it is meant to benefit. We work hard to mitigate against this problem through rigorous legacy planning but it is a challenge of the current system that valued, innovative (but not brand new) provision with a proven impact is often difficult to sustain without a level of creative rebranding to convince funders to support it. This short-termism has many knock-on effects in terms of efficiency and, potentially, quality, as planning cycles are reduced and cultural organisations struggle to make accurate budget projections in the face of so many unknowns.

4.2  Impact recent changes to the distribution of National Lottery funds will have on arts and heritage organisations

  We welcome plans to allocate 60% of Lottery funding to the arts, sport and heritage causes. We have benefited significantly from Heritage Lottery Fund grants, including major capital projects which have transformed our site, facilities and programmes, and smaller project grants which have enabled us to develop innovative exhibition and education projects. However, as a local authority service we are concerned by plans to reform the Big Lottery Fund to ensure that only voluntary and community sector projects are funded. Having been part of Big Lottery Funded Their Past Your Future 2, we have experienced at first hand the impacts that such projects delivered on a national scale (and therefore, often, through public sector bodies) can have on local communities.

4.3  The impact of recent changes to DCMS arm's-length bodies—in particular the abolition of the UK Film Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council;

  4.3.1  Orleans House Gallery, the accredited museum we administer as part of the LA arts service, has enjoyed a strong relationship with MLA over recent years. We have benefited from advice and guidance from Museum Development Officers, both in relation to achieving Accreditation and advice relating to specific issues including collections care and exhibitions planning. We have benefitted greatly from the training opportunities offered through MLA and Renaissance; both in relation to specific knowledge and understanding but also in terms of organisational development at a crucial stage in our evolution as an organisation. The professional network supported by MLA, particularly through initiatives such as the Local Authority Museums Improvement network and the Museumaker initiative, provides both support and inspirational challenge to us when developing our offer. The encouragement to work cross-sectorally with Libraries through joint development projects initiated by MLA has had a lasting impact on how our services work together locally, in turn helping us extend our offer to wider audiences and promote community cohesion. More recently, encouragement to initiate and sustain partnerships with other sectors including HE/FE, as well as Children's Services through the Working With Children's Services project, has helped foster innovation and provide direction as we investigate and share new ways of working.

  4.3.2  Over recent years, MLA initiated projects have helped us to develop our offer through innovative pilot projects to ensure that we are meeting the needs of different sectors within our community—including vulnerable adults, non-visiting schools, Children Looked After and other vulnerable young people, and families living in areas of relative deprivation. MLA-administered funding has proved vital in allowing us to embark on these projects. In many cases, these MLA-initiated projects have been the starting point for lasting relationships enabling the Gallery to play a full, active part in contributing to local strategic priorities.

  4.3.3  For all these reasons, we believe MLA has had an extremely positive influence upon the impact we make within our local community, the rigor with which we evidence these impacts, and the efficiency with which we achieve them through partnership delivery. Without a similar body, there is a risk of fragmentation, duplication and loss of quality and innovation across our sector.

5.  THE ROLE OF BUSINESSES AND PHILANTHROPISTS IN FUNDING ARTS AT A NATIONAL AND LOCAL LEVEL

  5.1  As a local authority arts service, we have attempted to work closely with business and philanthropists over a number of years with limited success. Our experience highlights a number of issues relating to business and philanthropy as funders of the arts and heritage at a local level.

  5.1.1  Many businesses and philanthropic trusts are less willing to contribute to projects led by local authority services because of the public perception that such projects should be paid for "by the council" (even when they are delivered by non-statutory departments) and that sponsoring charities and third sector organisations brings more social benefit.

  5.1.2  Many businesses sponsor arts, heritage or education projects as part of shaping their public profile and are therefore more likely to want their brand associated with high profile, large-scale, "glamorous", London-based institutions such as national museums. It is much harder for smaller local arts organisations, which may make a far greater impact within their communities, to attract this kind of funding.

  5.1.3  In this context, it would be helpful if Government could work with the sector to encourage private donors across the board and make a case for Local Authorities and smaller cultural institutions

  5.1.4  Its takes time and resources to nurture relationships with business. Many smaller scale arts and heritage organisations lack in-house expertise or resources to invest in the necessary marketing and promotion, especially when the amounts secured through local business sponsorship (often £500-£2000) are such that they barely cover the staff time taken to secure them.

  5.1.5  Arts organisations seeking funding for education programmes and those within Local Authorities are limited in terms of the businesses they can approach for sponsorship as some brands are not considered appropriate for association with projects involving children and young people.

  5.1.6  While some businesses will consider longer-term funding agreements, there is a risk that over-reliance on business sponsorship results in a piecemeal approach to funding enabling multiple short-term projects but not providing sustainable funding which might enable organisational development.

6.  CONCLUSION

  We welcome the opportunity to contribute to this inquiry into the funding of arts and heritage in the UK. In the context of budget reductions, we are keen to work creatively with Government and the wider cultural sector to find solutions and new models of funding that will enable us to sustain and build upon the achievements of the past decade in terms of the positive benefits culture can bring to individuals, communities and the nation as a whole. As we seek these new ways forward, it is important to be honest about the challenges we face and rigorous in our quest for solutions that will provide long-term sustainability for the sector.

September 2010





 
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