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A report on Measuring the value of culture recommends clear guidelines.


A Parliamentary committee on arts funding will report in 2011.


Arts Council England recruited 300 experts in 2009 and 2010 to provide peer assessment of funded organisations.


An Arts Council fund of 40 million GBP will help protect arts organisations in the recession.

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United Kingdom/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities

At the turn of the Millennium there was an increased recognition of the way in which the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) sectors in England can contribute to the achievement of wider government objectives, such as promoting social inclusion and neighbourhood renewal and its increasing commitment to investment in cultural (i.e. human) capital. We have witnessed a closer working relationship between central and local government in recognition of jointly-shared aims and the need for services to be effectively delivered.

In all four UK nations, the period since 1996 has been one of policy review and change with an incoming UK Government in 1997 with its own objectives and the delegation of responsibility for culture to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, and the creation of the Northern Ireland Assembly. In this period of much upheaval, certain cultural issues have been given priority such as access, excellence, the creative industries, creativity, cultural diversity, the artist, new technologies and culture and education. Further structural changes, as well as serious funding cutbacks, following the election of a new government in May 2010, will have an impact on the pursuit of these priorities especially in England.

The White Paper, Public Services for the Future: Modernisation, Reform, Accountability (December 1998) and its supplement published in March 1999, published for the first time measurable targets for the full range of the government's objectives. They formed an integral part of the spending plans set out in Spending Reviews and were refined subsequently in order that departments continue focussing on the priorities that the government is committed to deliver. In 2007 the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) published 30 new Public Service Agreements with key priority outcomes to be delivered from 2008 to 2011. Public Service Agreements (PSAs) between the Treasury and individual government departments set out the targets that the funded body has agreed to work towards in return for its funding. As a framework for the delivery of these PSAs, the government also published a Service Transformation Agreement, which presents its "vision for building services around the citizen and specific actions for each department in taking forward this challenging agenda". In the CSR period from 2008, culture was not included directly as a key priority sector, but rather as an aspect that is found transversally through the priority outcomes.

Recently the question of how to more clearly articulate the value of culture using methods which fit with central government decision-making has become an issue for investigation. The thinking in government is that cultural policy needs to develop valuation tools for mainstream policy appraisal that will raise the quality of decision-making as is claimed for other areas of public policy. Consequently, the DCMS, together with the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, initiated a project on Measuring Cultural Value. In December 2010 Dr. Dave O'Brian produced a report for the DCMS which offers a detailed consideration of the economic valuation methods suggested in the Treasury's Green Book, as well as the "wellbeing / income compensation" approach proposed by the DCMS Culture and Sport Evidence (CASE programme). The report, Measuring the value of culture, recommends DCMS should create clear guidelines on measuring cultural value based on the economic valuation techniques consistent with the Green Book. In doing so, the report suggests DCMS should develop closer working links with academics working in cultural economics. The report also recommends DCMS investigate whether existing datasets on culture could be utilised alongside economic values to develop a multi-criteria analysis for culture.

At a regional and local level, DCMS has been committed to encouraging a fully integrated approach to the delivery of cultural services in England. In 2008, A Passion for Excellence was launched, which set out a framework for local level improvement in the culture and sport sectors (which were considered by the Audit Commission to be inadequately delivering government objectives) and includes the mechanisms and tools to support leadership development, performance and capacity building. In 2009, A Passion For Excellence: One Year On established what progress has been made and outlined further work to be undertaken by the partners (DCMS, Improvement and Development Agency for local government (IDeA), Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), Chief Cultural & Leisure Officers Association (CLOA), Sport England (SE), English Heritage (EH), Local Government Association (LGA), Arts Council England (ACE) and Government Offices for the English Regions). More information can be found at However, with structural changes imminent and reductions in resources at national, regional and local levels, it is unclear to what extent the momentum can be sustained.

A Parliamentary Select committee on Culture, Media and Sport, began taking evidence in 2010 for its enquiry into arts funding. However, this committee will not complete its investigation until well into 2011, by which time the government will have finalised its decisions on structural change and resource allocation.


The DCMS commissioned Sir Brian McMaster, former Director of the Edinburgh Festival and the Welsh National Opera to undertake a review looking at: how the system of public support can encourage excellence, innovation and risk-taking; how artistic excellence can stimulate deeper engagement with the arts by audiences; and how to establish non-bureaucratic methods of judging quality. His report Supporting Excellence in the Arts, From Measurement to Judgement - was published in January 2008. The report sought to direct attention to increasing excellence rather than focussing on targets and results, which has been the trend in the last decade. Some of the recommendations included:

  • innovative, risk-taking work should take precedence in the eyes of funders;
  • funding bodies should have and take up the right to be involved in the appointment processes of the organisations they fund;
  • funding for failing organisations should be made subject to fixed conditions or be removed entirely;
  • every cultural organisation should have at least two artists or practitioners on its board;
  • funded organisations should be assessed based on self-evaluation and peer review that focuses on objective judgements; and
  • ten organisations with "the most innovative ambition" should receive ten-year funding.

For the full report see: or

Arts Council England was recruiting a pool of 300 experts (artists, critics, managers etc) in 2009 and 2010 to provide peer assessment of its regularly funded organisations in dance, literature, music, theatre, visual arts and specialist areas etc. Their reports are intended to feed into ACE's existing artistic evaluation processes and complement the work of its staff. The new arrangements are a response to recommendations in the McMaster review, as well as criticisms following the reduction or withdrawal of funding by ACE of almost 20% of its supported organisations in 2008.

In 2006, Arts Council England completed the first ever major review of contemporary visual arts, encompassing a wide field of artforms including artists' film and video, crafts, live art, photography, new media arts and education and critical debate, which has informed Turning Point, a national 10 year strategy for the visual arts. This new framework aims to support the development of closer links and collaboration across heritage and contemporary visual arts and the commercial sectors. It is also intended to enable the Arts Council to adopt a more strategic role, grounded in a clear understanding of the visual arts sector and its broader context. Reports have also been produced for theatre and music.

In September 2008, Arts Council England set out its priorities for the future in the Arts Council Plan 2008-2011, informed by the Arts Debate (the largest programme of consultation and research ever carried out by ACE) and taking account of the McMaster Report, the government's Creative Britain strategy and the McIntosh Review (see chapter 3.2). The Arts Council's Plan, "Great Art for Everyone", identified four development priorities:

  • use digital technology to connect with audiences in new and exciting ways;
  • improve the reach and effectiveness of visual arts provision;
  • make sure children and young people grow up with a strong sense of the possibilities the arts give them; and
  • realise the opportunity offered by the London 2012 Olympics to enrich the artistic life of the nation.


Subsequently in 2010, Arts Council England launched a consultation exercise on "Achieving Great Art for Everyone", setting out proposals as the first step in achieving a stable arts funding environment in England by 2020. This outlines five long term objectives to ensure that:

  • talent and artistic excellence are thriving and celebrated;
  • the arts leadership and workforce is highly skilled and diverse;
  • more people value and enjoy the arts;
  • every child and young person has opportunities to experience the arts; and
  • the arts sector is sustainable, resilient and innovative

See also:

Meanwhile, DCMS demanded cost savings from Arts Council England and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. ACE was asked to cut its administration costs by 15% by the end of March 2011 (equivalent to GBP 6.4 million). The Museums, Libraries & Archives Council was asked to make a cut of 25% in administration over the same period, hence the MLA's decision to rationalise its national and regional operations. It also had a 3% reduction in its grant in the 2010/11 fiscal year. Further grant reductions were required of ACE in 2010 - first of GBP 4 million in the last months of the New Labour Administration and then an additional cut of GBP 19 million demanded by the incoming Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government.

Inevitably, concern has been expressed about the economic situation and its impact on the cultural sector. Arts Council England initiated research in 2009 on the impact of the economic crisis on the arts and interim results suggested that audience levels are generally being maintained, though there is a squeeze on some sources of income.

In the face of the economic downturn, Arts Council England introduced, in 2009, a temporary GBP 40 million programme (the Sustain fund) to help protect arts organisations from the effects of recession. Applications for Sustain were being assessed on quality, successful management, public engagement and a demonstration that the recession was adversely affecting an organisation's financial viability. Priority has been given to larger regularly funded organisations, especially those considered to be of the highest strategic importance.

The new Coalition Government, elected in May 2010, announced immediate reductions to government spending. With most government departments being required by the new government to achieve savings of around 25% or more over the lifetime of this Parliament, the outlook for the cultural sector is likely to be very tough.

Moreover, as part of its objective to cut public-expenditure, the new government has indicated that it will abolish several cultural NDBPs funded by the DCMS. These include the UK Film Council and the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council. There has been much criticism in the cultural sector, not least because the government announcement failed, at the time, to indicate clearly what responsibilities of these bodies will be retained and which institutions will be expected to take them on. This situation has now become a little clearer.

It is also feared that severe pressures on local government budgets will lead to serious problems for local authority funded cultural organisations. In January 2010 the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives forecast reductions in local government budgets of 7-20% over the next three years - a prediction some consider to be an underestimate of even the most optimistic forecast. Furthermore, the Society suggested that the reductions could be considerably higher for non-statutory services such as the arts, and there have already been indications that some local authorities are prepared to cut their arts services completely.


In April 2004, Scottish Ministers set up an independent Cultural Commission to review cultural provision and delivery at all levels across the country through extensive consultation. The Commission was asked to consider ways to boost access, exploring the notion of cultural rights for Scotland's citizens and its creative community, and to review the institutional and built infrastructure and governance of the country's cultural sector. In response to the radical findings and recommendations Scottish Ministers produced Scotland's Culture, a vision of the future cultural policy, identifying key changes for infrastructure, investment, legislation and programmes, which formed the basis for a draft Culture Bill that was presented for consultation in December 2006.

After considerable and sometimes heated debate this has led to the establishment of Creative Scotland, the new public body that amalgamates the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen. The new body has the following functions:

  • identifying, supporting and developing quality and excellence from those engaged in artistic and other creative endeavours;
  • promoting understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the arts and culture,
  • encouraging as many people as possible to access and participate in the arts and culture;
  • realising the value and benefits (in particular, the national and international value and benefits) of the arts and culture;
  • encouraging and supporting artistic and other creative endeavours which contribute to an understanding of Scotland's national culture; and
  • promoting and supporting industries and other commercial activity where the primary focus is the application of creative skills.

Creative Scotland has an overall budget of GBP 60 million, which will be frozen for the 2011/12 financial year when the government's Culture & External Affairs budget faces a 6.7% cut.

At the same time, the Scottish Executive has taken responsibility for directly funding Scotland's national cultural organisations, including arts companies previously supported by the Scottish Arts Council. Key arts organisations, such as the National Theatre of Scotland, have been advised by the Scottish Government to budget for cuts from April 2011 of 10%.


Creative Future: Cymru Greadigol - a ten-year culture strategy was launched by the Welsh Assembly government in 2002, outlining a number of priorities for culture in Wales. Among these were the:

  • inclusion of culture as part of local community plans;
  • free entry to national museums and galleries;
  • improving access to cultural facilities and activities for audiences and participants;
  • sustaining the highest standards in the wide range of professional arts;
  • using Wales' distinct culture and its achievements to raise its international profile;
  • promotion of the Welsh language;
  • the exploitation of European Structural Funds for cultural organisations;
  • developing new drama strategies in the Welsh and English languages; and
  • reviewing the funding of festivals and exhibitions and support of local authority music services.

Proposals to place the Arts Council of Wales's strategic planning and research functions, as well as direct funding of the six national arts companies, under the control of the Welsh Assembly Government were defeated in a plenary debate in the National Assembly. The future of arts funding was reviewed in 2006 by an independent Wales Arts Review Panel and its recommendations have been taken forward through the Arts Strategy Board, which is chaired by the Minister for Heritage and made up of representatives from the Welsh Assembly Government, ACW and the arts sector in Wales.

In 2009, the Arts Council began a detailed Investment Review, looking at its revenue expenditure for key organisations. The outcome of the Review, Renewal and transformation: building a stronger future for the arts in Wales, published in Summer 2010, is a decision to withdraw regular funding from 32 arts organisations and to allocate annual subsidy to four for the first time. The Arts Council said the strategy was intended to deploy existing funds to best effect at a time of economic difficulty. However, the proposals have been criticised by some in the cultural sector as abandoning the Council's policy of ensuring access to the arts across the country, especially rural communities, because funding will be withdrawn from some of the network of venues and community arts organisations.

The Assembly Government is to reduce the arts budget by 4% for three years from 2011/12, which is likely to result in regularly funded organisations losing up to GBP 1.5 million in total over the period.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) published its Corporate Strategy 2008-2011 setting out its mission - "To protect, nurture and grow Northern Ireland's cultural capital by providing strategic leadership and resources for the promotion and sustainable development of the culture, arts and leisure sectors." DCAL seeks to achieve this by:

  • ensuring the effective and efficient delivery of high quality culture, arts and leisure services;
  • ensuring the effective provision of strategic leadership to the culture, arts and leisure sectors; and
  • ensuring effective governance, oversight, probity, and relationship management with its delivery partners

The Northern Ireland Executive's Programme for Government 2008-2011 and associated Budget, and the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland 2008-2018, form the context for DCAL's Corporate Strategy. In contributing to the wider aspirations set by the Northern Ireland Executive, the challenge for the Department is to make best use of the available resources to promote culture, arts and leisure in Northern Ireland.

DCAL makes a significant contribution to the two cross cutting themes of the programme for government - a shared and better future and sustainability - which underpin the delivery of the Executive's priorities. The delivery of DCAL's key goals within each priority area provide a framework to address the key social, economic and environmental challenges and take advantage of the very real opportunities which devolution has presented.

DCAL's services are delivered largely by a number of arms length bodies and it seeks to ensure that they have the necessary support to provide effective and efficient services to their immediate stakeholders and wider public. However, early in 2010 DCAL learnt that more than GBP 25 million of its budget for 2010 will be cut as part of government savings. As a consequence, the budget of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland will be reduced by GBP 1.1 million.

For its part, Arts Council Northern Ireland independently assessed the impact and achievements of its 2001-2006 strategic plan, including the success of the funding streams, the challenges facing the arts in the region, the internal organisation of the Arts Council and how effectively the Council had linked with central and local government and the arts sector. The findings of the review fed into the broadest public consultation exercise that the Arts Council had ever undertaken. The results of this evaluation led to the development of ACNI's subsequent 5 year strategic plan (2007-2012) entitled "Creative Connections". This strategy is based under four broad themes:

  • art at the Heart - Promoting the Value of the Arts;
  • strengthening the Arts;
  • growing Audiences and Increasing Participation; and
  • improving Performance.

In 2006, DCAL published a policy framework for public libraries, Delivering Tomorrow's Libraries. This will guide the development of the public library service over ten years, through restructuring in 2009 into a single, unified service for all of Northern Ireland, delivered by a non-departmental public body (Libraries NI). The policy framework contains standards for public libraries and sets out a renewed focus on customer service based around access to books and information. DCAL's vision for the public library service is: "A flexible and responsive library service which provides a dynamic focal point in the community and assists people to fulfil their potential."

Also in 2006, DCAL published a high level government policy: Architecture and the Built Environment for Northern Ireland. The vision is: "An attractive, healthy, safe and sustainable built environment which functions efficiently and enriches the experience of living for everyone in Northern Ireland." The guiding principles of this policy relate to: (i) Creativity and Innovation, (ii) Heritage, and (iii) Sustainable Development. Whilst ensuring best value from public expenditure, the policy advocates excellence in design quality.

Challenges facing the delivery of policies

In advance of the General Election in 2010 and following cultural sector consultation and public debates, the National Campaign for the Arts launched A Manifesto for the Arts (, which sought to make a case for public funding of the arts and the need to sustain it. In the post-election period, it soon became clear that the culture sector was not to escape unscathed by the decision of the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government to rapidly reduce public expenditure.

At the time of preparing this UK entry, the government has not been entirely clear on what policy changes it expected. Instead it has focused - in England - on cutting back expenditure on the administration of funding, axing some of the support structures and indicating that it will encourage more private sector support. In this context it is questionable whether the cultural priorities of the previous government can be realistically sustained. In response, the National Campaign for the Arts launched an advocacy strategy, "I Value the Arts", to encourage public participation in lobbying government at national and local levels on behalf of the arts ( Umbrella bodies across the arts are involved. The intention is to keep the debate going on the importance of the arts, particularly at local government level, where there are potentially serious funding problems.

Chapter published: 15-04-2011

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