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The Arts Council of Northern Ireland will no longer be responsible for funding local arts.

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United Kingdom/ 3. Competence, decision-making and administration  

3.2 Overall description of the system


The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is responsible for government policy on the arts, sport, the National Lottery, tourism, libraries, national museums and galleries in England, broadcasting, creative industries including film, the music industry, fashion design, advertising and the arts market, as well as press freedom and regulation, licensing, gambling and the historic environment.. DCMS is the Department responsible for the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

DCMS is also responsible for the listing of historic buildings and scheduling of ancient monuments, the export licensing of cultural goods, the management of the Government Art Collection and the Royal Parks Agency. It works jointly with the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) on design issues (including sponsorship of the Design Council) and on relations with the computer games and publishing industries.

DCMS is headed by a Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, who is assisted by a Minister for Tourism and Heritage, a Minister for Sport and the Olympics and a Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries.

The Secretary of State has overall responsibility for Departmental strategy, expenditure and organisation. The Minister for Culture covers arts, media, museums and galleries, libraries, creative industries and aspects of telecoms, broadband and digital switchover (some of these responsibilities are shared with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills). The Minister for Sport and the Olympics is responsible for those areas. The Minister for Tourism and Heritage is in addition responsible for the built environment, Royal Parks and Royal Household, National Lottery, gambling and horse racing.

There is a separate Parliamentary Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport, appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the DCMS and its associated public bodies.


In general, the UK spending on culture operates on an "arm's length" basis, through a number of Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs). These include organisations responsible for the arts, sport, film and heritage in England and their counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Many museums and galleries are also run as NDPBs, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Tate Galleries. Some "public bodies", including the four Arts Councils, also act as distributors of National Lottery funds.

The UK Parliament and Government retain both legislative and policy responsibility for the whole of the UK in the following areas:

  • acceptance in lieu of tax (e.g. the acquisition of works of art and heritage for the nation instead of payment of death duties);
  • broadcasting;
  • export controls on cultural objects;
  • government indemnity scheme (i.e. insurance for cultural objects on loan);
  • legislative responsibility for the national lottery (but responsibility for policy directions is shared with the devolved administrations);
  • public lending right (except for Northern Ireland).

DCMS also retains legislative and policy responsibility for film, and also for alcohol and public entertainment licensing, in Wales. Responsibility for gambling law and regulation is shared between the UK Parliament and the devolved administrations. All other subject areas are the responsibility of the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Over 95% of the Department's budget is allocated to the public bodies that help deliver its strategic aims and objectives. These bodies have three year funding agreement with the Department, which explains what they will deliver for the funding allocated to them. The agreement summarises strategic priorities, key activities and outputs to be delivered, and is regularly reviewed.

Cultural policy in the regions is delivered through the four DCMS NDPBs which have had a significant regional presence in recent years - namely, Arts Council England, English Heritage, Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and Sport England - in collaboration with key partners such as the Regional Development Agencies (though these face abolition by government) and local authorities. These arrangements have replaced the role formerly played by the Regional Cultural Consortiums (abolished in 2008-09). Strategies for culture in London remain the responsibility of the Greater London Assembly (GLA).

The new Conservative - Liberal Democratic Coalition Government elected in 2010 has indicated that a number of cultural quangos are to be abolished, including the UK Film Council, and the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council, while the future of others may be in doubt.

Arts Council England

Probably, the most changes in the past two decades have occurred in the Arts Council system. One of the most significant of these was the creation, in 2002, of Arts Council England by the merger of former regional arts boards in England with the Arts Council of England to create a single, unified development body for the arts.

In February 2008 Arts Council England commissioned an external review of its investment strategy in Regularly Funded Organisations. This followed considerable criticism of how ACE had approached the future funding of its Regularly Funded Organisations for 2008-2011 and the withdrawal of funds for almost one-fifth of them. Baroness McIntosh led the review and her report published in May 2008, made a range of recommendations on Arts Council England's structure, governance, relationships with the sector and capacity building. The Arts Council responded positively to the recommendations and further details can be found on its website:

In July 2009 Arts Council England announced details of an organisation-wide restructure to save GBP 6.5 million a year in administration costs and re-invest it in the arts. The principal changes include:

  • an overall reduction in staff numbers across the organisation of 21%;
  • nine streamlined regional offices grouped in four areas --North; Midlands and South West; East and South East; London;
  • a smaller head office, to be shared with the London regional office;
  • a smaller Executive Board - 9 members instead of 14; and
  • a centralised Grants for the Arts process based in Manchester.

Further administrative savings have to be made as the result of a GBP 4 million reduction in its grant imposed on the Council by the Labour Government before the General Election in 2010 and by a further GBP 19 million cut required by the newly elected Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government in the financial year 2010/2011.


The administration of cultural matters in Scotland is the responsibility of the Scottish Government. The Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution and the Scottish Government's Culture, External Affairs and Tourism (CEAT) Directorate have responsibility for policy covering the arts, film, creative industries, cultural heritage, the Gaelic language, tourism and liaison with the UK Government on broadcasting. The CEAT Directorate also has responsibility for grant-aiding a number of cultural NDPBs, including Creative Scotland, the three national institutions (the National Museums of Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Library of Scotland), and Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the Gaelic development agency. The Group's Culture Division directly funds the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) and the Scottish Museums Council (SMC). These are both membership organisations that take a national developmental role within their sectors and provide advice and briefing to the government.

The Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen were abolished in 2010 and their functions absorbed by a new national arts development agency, Creative Scotland, as the single national statutory public body for the arts and film in Scotland. Responsibility for funding national arts organisations is being transferred from the Arts Council to government, which has given an assurance that the "arm's length" principle will be maintained. Creative Scotland, became fully operational in Summer 2010 and will be expected to work as an effective partner with Scotland's local government sector.

Historic Scotland is an Executive Agency of the Scottish Government and is directly responsible to Scottish Ministers for safeguarding and promoting the country's historic environment. As part of these responsibilities, it compiles and maintains lists of historic buildings and scheduled monuments, and an Inventory of Historic Gardens and Designed Landscapes. Historic Scotland's Corporate Plan can be accessed at:

The CEAT Directorate also has responsibility for the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) and Architecture and Design Scotland (ADS). RCAHMS is responsible for recording the historic built environment and maintaining the National Monuments Record of Scotland, much of which is now accessible on-line. RCAHMS works closely with the Welsh equivalent body (RCAHMW) in widening electronic public access to the information held by their respective archives. Architecture and Design Scotland replaced the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland in 2005 and has a much wider remit as the Executive's "champion" for good architecture in Scotland, with a key role to play in implementing the commitments within A Policy on Architecture for Scotland.


The National Assembly for Wales has devolved responsibilities in Wales for culture and related issues. Within the Welsh Assembly Government the portfolio of the Assembly Minister for Culture, Welsh Language and Sport covers the arts, museums, archives and libraries, language, heritage, sport and physical activity and lottery issues. Since 1999 a number of public agencies, e.g. the Arts Council of Wales, the Welsh Language Board, Sports Council for Wales, National Library of Wales and Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, have been funded by, and accountable to, the Assembly following the transfer of responsibility from the former Welsh Office. These organisations are referred to under the collective title of Assembly Sponsored Government Bodies.

The Welsh Assembly Government's historic environment division (CADW: Welsh Historic Monuments) is responsible for the country's built heritage. The Design Commission for Wales promotes sustainable development by providing bespoke training to councillors, planners etc., championing best practice and acting as a non-statutory consultee within the urban planning process.

CyMAL: Museums, Archives and Libraries Wales was established as a new policy division of the Welsh Assembly Government from April 2004 to develop strategic direction for local museums, archives and libraries and provide financial support and advice.

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Executive was established as part of the so called Good Friday Agreement. The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), one of 11 Northern Ireland Departments created in 1999, is responsible for setting policy, bringing forward legislation and resourcing the following areas: arts and creativity; museums; libraries; sport and leisure; inland waterways and inland fisheries; the Public Record Office (PRONI) the national archives for Northern Ireland; and language policy. DCAL supports a number of arms length bodies including the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, which became a statutory body in 1995; the National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland, established in 1998 by the merger of four major museums and heritage collections; and the Northern Ireland Museums Council, which is the main channel of the Executive's support to local museums. DCAL also supports the Northern Ireland Screen Commission (NISC). The NISC also receives aid from the local economic development agency, Invest Northern Ireland. Local government also has a role in supporting cultural activity, including local museums.

As part of the ongoing Review of Public Administration (RPA) decisions taken in 2006, the public library service in Northern Ireland is delivered by a single, dedicated library authority known as Libraries NI instead of being part of the wider remit of five Education and Library Boards.

Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) has a history of working and supporting local government in delivering a range of services throughout the region. For example, ACNI worked closely with Belfast City Council in the development of Integrated Cultural Strategy (2007-2010), a five year plan for the arts in Belfast. Furthermore, ACNI have been supporting local government in preparation for the restructuring of the current 26 councils to 11 "super-councils" in 2011. The Arts Council will continue to fund major arts bodies, but will no longer be responsible for funding local arts, which will be under the remit of a new tier of district councils at local level.

Chapter published: 15-04-2011

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