Written evidence submitted by Birmingham
Museums and Art Gallery (arts 29)
1. Summary Bullet Points
The reduction in public sector funding
for museums and heritage will result in a diminished sector, a
reduction in consumer choice and in the quality of management
of significant cultural assets held in trust. Though the economic
situation makes retrenchment inevitable, strategic decisions need
to be made about what is lost and what sustained.
If the proposed levels of reductions
come into force it will take a considerable length of time to
recover to existing levels of provision.
There are undoubted opportunities to
create economies of scale through working collaborativelyif
there are sound and practicable business reasons, common objectives,
shared ethos, which ensure partnerships are functional and effective.
A coherent national strategy is needed
for the museums sector to guide decisions about allocating resources
and prioritising provision. There will be a need to determine
how this is lead and delivered.
Policy guidelines for National Lottery
Funding should be reviewed and include consideration of the need
to provide revenue funding along the lines of the Arts Council,
Revenue Funded Organisations (RFO) system.
With the abolition of the MLA and the
need to determine how its areas of responsibility are managed
in future, emphasis should be placed on `how' programmes and functions
are managed in addition to "who" does so to ensure greatest
energy is given to delivery and disproportionate levels of monitoring
and administration are avoided.
The grouping of Museums, Libraries and
Archives together has not to date been entirely effective in encouraging
joined up thinking/working and the principle should be reviewed.
Tax breaks and other financial incentives
will be critical to increasing the potential for philanthropic
giving. It will be important for local and national Government
to retain appropriate levels of investment in the arts and museums
and seek to work in partnership businesses and private funders
to enable stable funding regimes to flourish.
2. Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery (BMAG)
is one of the largest local authority funded services in Europe.
The present service, established in the latter part of the 19th
Century was founded on the principles of philanthropy, civic pride
and entrepreneurialism reflected in the museum's motto "By
the gains of Industry we promote art". The service currently
comprises seven listed buildings including the main Museum and
Art Gallery in Chamberlain Square, Aston Hall, one of the finest
examples of a Jacobean domestic architecture surviving in the
UK, and Soho House, former/18th C home of Matthew Boultonone
of the foremost industrialists and patrons of the arts of his
day. The service holds well in excess of 800,000 items in its
outstanding collections of fine and decorative arts, archaeology
and historical material that are recognised as being of national
and international significance.
2.1 The service welcomed over 850,000 visitors
to its sites last year and over 3 million people viewed items
from its collections on loan to international museums. Birmingham
is the lead for the West Midlands Renaissance hub and was most
recently one of the two acquiring partners of the Staffordshire
Hoard ensuring that this outstanding historic discovery remained
in the West Midlands. Birmingham City Council has made significant
investment in the service over the previous ten years which has
in turn encouraged investment by HLF and other funders in excess
of £50 million. It is estimated that the service accounts
for £16 million per annum in secondary spend by its visitors.
2.2 The service will be significantly affected
by all areas to be examined by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
3. What impact recent, and future, spending cuts
from central and local Government will have on the arts and heritage
at a national and local level?
3. Current and future/predicted reductions in
funding will have a profound and long-term impact on the UK's
cultural landscape and infrastructure. With most cultural organisations
having already seen core budgets reduced over time, it is clear
that many smaller and moderate size arts/heritage organisations
will be forced to close. Others will face reduced opening hours,
and need to consider entrance charges in order to maintain services.
The reductions will diminish the UK's arts and heritage sector
which will in turn impact on the country's economy, in terms of
both its tourism and workforce.
3.1 BMAG for example is facing significant
reductions in its LA core funding and is consequently reducing
the range of public services it delivers in areas such as education,
family and community cohesion programmes. Delivery of previously
free public services such as temporary exhibitions and provision
of education programmes are now reliant on charging in order to
be retained, this will present a barrier for many families on
low incomes as well as culturally diverse audiences, something
that is particularly important in a city such as Birmingham.
3.2 A significant reduction in staffing
(the largest overhead) within museums/heritage organisations is
inevitable, with an associated loss of professional expertise
and experience. This will impact on standards of management of
primary assetscollections and buildings, the provision
that stems from these, and also the potential for attracting the
support of commercial and private sponsors, donors and additional
funding from trusts/charities etc. Current and future budget cuts
will affect future generations' access to and understanding of
their cultural heritage.
3.3 BMAG has until recent times enjoyed
a period of growth supported by investment from both the local
authority and the Renaissance in the Regions programme, which
accounts for between 12-14% of the service's income since the
beginning of this funding stream. This investment has been invaluable
and hugely effective in developing and improving service provision
and resulted in audiences increasing year on year, enhanced education
provision and community engagement. It has enabled the service
to become highly effective in levering in additional funds, over
£20 million last year including a significant HLF contribution.
Renaissance investment has created extra capacity to enable and
deliver major capital developments/improvements projects as well
as enhanced day to day service provision.
4. What arts organisations can do to work
more closely together in order to reduce duplication of effort
and to make economies of scale?
4.1 Governance, management and operational
structures are key areas that many cultural organisations will
be forced to review as a result of current and impending budget
cuts. Arts/heritage organisations however governed may need to
consider merging, where applicable become less reliant on local
authority funding and more effective at levering in support from
other funding sources.
4.2 Closer partnership working between arts
and heritage organisations is essential if the quality of museum
and arts programmes is to be sustained. At BMAG costs for temporary
exhibitions and public engagement programmes have been significantly
reduced through working in partnership with other publicly funded
or independent arts organisations. Museums and arts organisations
with the venues for cultural provision but without the budgets
to fund programming, will need to work more closely with non venue-based
arts organisations seeking a public platform for their work. Museums
and arts organisations will need to be more flexible about how
their venues are used, becoming more adept at hiring out space
to other arts/other organisations as a means of both income generation
and maintaining a strong cultural offer.
4.3 Museums and galleries are already exploring
opportunities for jointly developing and managing collections
as long term partnerships, sharing the costs of management and
storage whilst also jointly exploring related commercial opportunities.
Such is the model developed by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
and the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in relation to the
recent acquisition of the Anglo Saxon Staffordshire Hoard.
5. What level of public subsidy for the arts
and heritage is necessary and sustainable?
5.1 Sustaining public subsidy is critical. Though
many museum/arts/heritage organisations have made significant
progress in working more entrepreneurially, public subsidy is
crucial to enabling income generation. Determining appropriate
funding levels is complex, and needs to take account of such factors
as the scale/scope and significance of assets held, geographical
location of organisations, population served, local economic environment
and how this impacts on income generating potential.
5.2 In the case of most of the largest regional
museums services the two most critical funding streams are the
funding provided by the Local Authorities and the DCMS Renaissance
in the Regions funding. LA funding for museums, arts and cultural
provision will inevitably be squeezed as council's prioritise
statutory services. However, there is a case for Government/DCMS
articulating the significant and highly tangible value (economic
and intrinsic) of cultural provision in terms quality of life,
place-making, education and skills, tourism and the visitor economy
and encourage LAs to take a strategic approach in sustaining financial
support at appropriate levels. Likewise it is critical that Renaissance
in the Regions funding continues, and is recognised by DCMS to
be a core funding stream and an essential element of public subsidy
for the sector. In the case of BMAG it has been crucial to maintaining
and maximising service provision across a range of areascuratorial,
educational and interpretative etc. commensurate with the size
and significance of its sites and collections. BMAG makes a key
contribution to the local and regional economy through the services
6. Whether the current system, and structure,
of funding distribution is the right one?
6.1 The current system of funding provision
for the arts and heritage is enormously complex, given the multiplicity
of funding sources. A diversity of funding sources and funding
streams is not necessarily a disadvantageous position. In the
museums sector there are significant variations in the levels
of national and local government funding provision for nationals,
regional, independent, university museums etc. as well as considerable
variations income generating ability and capacity. A national
strategy for museums encompassing a review of current funding
systems would help enable a more strategic approach to emerge.
6.2 Within the museums sector, the current
lack of clarity regarding the shape and scope of Renaissance funding,
together with clarity on how the funding will be administered
in future presents difficulties in forward-planning, and impacts
on maintaining partner funders and stakeholders confidence. However,
the principles of funding a "Core" group of museums
and the envisaged "Challenge" fund and "Museum
Development" will result in more effective use of resources
and support partnership working.
7. What impact the recent changes to the
distribution of National Lottery Funds will have on arts and heritage
7.1 We welcome the Government's proposals
to restore the percentage of lottery funding going to each of
the Arts and Heritage sectors to 20%.
7.2 The bulk of our funding applications
go to the Heritage Lottery Fund who we consider to have been very
effective in processing and distributing grant aid with minimal
7.3 However, it would seem beneficial to
review the grant programmes and application processes. For example,
with regard to the HLF, one change that we would like to see would
be the creation of a medium sized grant programme of say, up to
£500k. We feel the current system whereby everything above
£50k counts as a major award does not address the need for
a medium-sized grant stream. The net result is that it is equally
onerous to apply for a grant of £200k as it is for one for
7.4 We would also encourage consideration
of a single stage application for grants under £1 million
given the added bureaucracy of a two stage system.
7.5 Longer-term revenue funding programmes
for both Heritage and Arts lotteries should be introduced to ensure
that the products of capital investments are maintained and the
best value is delivered to users.
8. Whether the policy guidelines for National
Lottery Funding need to be reviewed?
8.1 We are content with the policy guidelines
for the Heritage and Arts Lottery Funds.
8.2 As stated above, most of our suggested
improvements are concerned with the scope of the various programmes
and the application process.
9. The impact of recent changes to DCMS arm's-length
bodiesin particular the abolition of the UK Film Council
and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council?
9.1 Whilst the Museums, Libraries and Archives
Council has played an important role in the implementation of
Renaissance in the Regions since 2003, the success of Renaissance
has primarily emerged from the participant museums enhanced capacity
to provide improved, high-quality services to users and the positive
outcomes of that delivery on people's lives. "How" the
programme is managed in future rather than "who" does
so is the most critical factor. The focus will need to beminimal
bureaucracy and maximum attention to front-line delivery.
9.2 However the MLA did play a role in setting
strategic direction and ensuring that museums worked more closely
with each other and with other key partners. It is therefore important
that in any process of transition, strategic direction and partnership
working can be maintained. New mechanisms whereby regional museums
communicate and plan strategically on common issues and have the
most productive relationship and partnerships with the national
museums will be essential.
9.3 Appropriate consultation and dialogue
is needed about where the functions MLA has managed transfer to
in future (Renaissance, AIL, National Security Advice, Government
Indemnity etc). An `Arts Council' solution for some or all elements
would require this organisation transforming in character, ethos
and raison d'etre etc. Some, but by no means all museums
are arts organisations.
10. Whether businesses and philanthropists
can play a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local
10.1 Museums undoubtedly have the potential
to work more effectively with businesses and philanthropists for
the benefit of their users and society in general. As is the case
with BMAG, many museum services building and collections were
founded and developed through collaborations between philanthropists
and "local authorities/public funding bodies". As public
funding increased over time, input from private philanthropy reduced.
Finding the ways and means to achieve an effective balance of
public, private and business sector support is a critical objective.
10.2 BMAG has begun a programme, supported
by the MLA, to develop its relationship with the business community
and build capacity to be more consistent and strategic in fundraising.
This has resulted in increased sponsorship on a small scale, and
a more marked increase in levering in funds from various funding
bodies. The programme (and funding support for this) has enabled
BMAG to build the skills and capacity within the organisation
to make this progress. It is still the case that many museums
service lack the capacity, skills and resource to move in this
11. Whether there needs to be more Government
incentives to encourage private donations?
11 The foundation of Birmingham's outstanding
collections is largely the result of donations of valuable and
significant works of art and attest to the importance of philanthropy
in this regard. The Museum was also built with the support of
wealthy local business people who wished to ensure that the people
of Birmingham had access to fine quality collections, a wish that
is expressed succinctly in the foundation stone of the gallery
"by the gains of Industry we promote art". Our experience
is that the donation of significant gifts by individuals in the
form of money or art/historical items is now the exception rather
than the rule. Likewise there has been a decline in bequests over
time. The museum does however receive generous support through
long term loans of significant and valuable works of art which
enhance the overall quality of the collections on public displayalso
a form of philanthropy to include in this arena.
11.1 There are a range of tangible incentives
and reforms that would aid and encourage private giving includinglifetime
legacies, reforms to Gift Aid, donor recognition together with
a campaign or "education programme" which encourages
not only high-net worth individuals to consider becoming philanthropists.
Consideration should be given to ways the Government could "incentivise"
volunteering as this is a highly valuable resource within the
arts and museums/heritage sector. BMAG for example receives significant
support from it's Friends organisation and through individual
11.2 Government incentives to encourage
private donations could also be brought about through directing
that elements of the funding it allocates to the arts, museums,
heritage sector develops skills and capacity in this area.
11.3 If individuals and businesses are to
be encouraged to support arts and culture even more proactively,
they will expect to do so in partnership with and not instead
of local and national government funding.