Arts, culture and libraries 2023

Culture and library services have an essential role in helping councils to engage with, and support, communities to achieve sustainable social outcomes. This is particularly relevant to levelling up, tackling health inequalities at a time of increasing financial challenges and the impact of COVID-19. The LGA’s important partnership with Arts Council England enables us to provide critical support to our member councils by developing the knowledge and skills of both councillors and officers to champion cultural activity in their local areas during a period of rebuilding, where leadership is needed most.

We are delighted to announce new programmes, launching in December and the New Year.

  • Leadership Essentials: Culture – booking now.
  • Culture and library peer challengesapply now
  • Senior officer leadership programme – launches in the New Year. Programme outline below. Join the waiting list to hear when details are released.

See the drop-down boxes for further information about these programmes.”

You may also be interested in the following:

Leadership Essentials: Culture

Tuesday 23 January (evening) & Wednesday 24 January 2023

Face to face programme, Burleigh Court, Loughborough, LE11 3GR


While councils work to rebuild from COVID-19, new economic pressures have presented a major threat to the institutions and organisations constituting the UK’s cultural infrastructure. Performing arts organisations, museums, libraries and other cultural institutions and businesses provide crucial health, economic and educational benefits to local communities. Yet the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, during a time when communities are rebuilding from the pandemic, has put many cultural institutions and livelihoods at risk. At the same time, Local Government funding is under significant pressure, with the LGA reporting a funding gap of more than £5 billion by 2024 to maintain services at current levels. Unless their value is articulated effectively, cultural institutions will face substantial financial pressures in the future and be unable to make their vital contribution to Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.

Programme aims

To support culture portfolio holders to be exceptional leaders of arts and culture in their places during the period of economic uncertainty and COVID rebuild, and beyond.

  • To increase and refresh the tools and knowledge culture portfolio holders have to be cultural leaders through peer to peer sharing and learning. 
  • To share a wide range of inspiring and relevant case studies presented in an engaging way by local authority peers and external speakers. 
  • To encourage attendees to network, share information, knowledge and expertise peer to peer and to respect confidentiality. 
  • To ensure that culture portfolio holders are aware of the strategic work of Arts Council England (ACE) and the longstanding partnership with the LGA.
  • To support opportunities to work more closely with ACE and to access support and resources. 
  • To ensure that culture portfolio holders are aware of the key role of councils in arts and culture, the potential for arts and culture to deliver across council agendas and that they are able to articulate this potential and these benefits.
  • The programme will consist of a cohort of up to 20 delegates who will be taken on the leadership journey, featuring the opportunity to hear topical updates and case studies and to network with councillors across the country.  
  • Each member of the cohort will identify a specific challenge they are facing in their locality at the beginning of the programme and will have the opportunity to work through this challenge along with other colleagues across the sector. These challenges will be submitted ahead of the programme in an agreed format and circulated among other participants ahead of the course. All responses will be treated anonymously when circulated to the cohort, as the Leadership Essentials programme is designed to create an honest and open space for delegates to discuss challenges and share knowledge. 
  • The participants will be supported by access and signposting to a wide range of relevant LGA and ACE resources.

If you wish to book onto the programme, please email Grace Collins:

Online culture and library peer challenges

Programme outline

In partnership with Arts Council England, the LGA would like to hear from councils who want to benefit from an online peer challenge of their cultural services or their library services.

Perhaps you are considering innovative approaches for income generation, exploring community engagement and new partnerships or striving to strengthen strategic links between your cultural services and other council services.

We are able to offer a limited number of fully-funded peer challenges based upon the established LGA peer challenge methodology. There are three culture peer challenge opportunities and eight library services peer challenge opportunities. The peer challenges are delivered online via Teams or Zoom platforms and last between 1.5 to 2 days.

The online peer challenge can be tailored to your local needs, whether that is providing you with an objective analysis of the effect of service changes, testing out ideas for further transformation including alternative delivery models, or assessing how well services are embedded in the council delivery of corporate objectives. The peer team can also help you to assess your evidence of impact and suggest how to target limited resources or explore the strength of your partnerships and identify possibilities for more collaborative working.

We will draw upon the LGA's pool of officer and member peers to put together a peer challenge team with the expertise to help you to address the key issues facing your library or cultural services. The team will spend 1.5 to 2 days online with your council, meeting councillors, officers and partners, and seeing your work in both theory and practice.

Following the online meetings, councils will receive a confidential report that sets out the key findings, provides some recommendations on the way forward, and practical advice and signposting to help you along the journey.

These peer challenges are fully funded by Arts Council England. To find out more about peer challenges, including case studies and testimonials, visit here. Peer challenges are not an inspection but a tool for improvement. Peer challenges are carried out to your specification aimed at improving, not judging, your council.

There are eight library peer challenges and three culture peer challenges available

  • You will be a council with responsibility for library services or culture depending on which challenge you bid for.
  • You are at the point of considering significant change, or evaluating significant change.
  • You will have commitment to change from senior councillors and leaders.
  • Please note: when considering applications, priority will be given to councils that have not recently had a culture or library peer challenge.
  • If you applied previously, but were unsuccessful, please do apply again, as your council’s needs or activity may have developed since your previous application.
  • This is a popular programme and although not every application may be successful, we will try to work with every council to identify if there is appropriate support that the LGA and ACE can offer.
How to apply

To apply in either a culture or a library peer challenge, please complete this application form, including what issues you would like the peer challenge to address and how you believe the peer challenge will assist your council, along with confirmation of support from the cultural services portfolio holder and senior officer responsible for library services or cultural services. Please also highlight any innovation and new ways of working that you think the peer challenge will help to support.

We welcome applications from individual or groups of councils, but for the latter please bear in mind the scale of the support that we are able to offer. We will then follow-up with you and may request some additional information.

When putting together your application think realistically about what insights can be gathered within the timescale, and ensure that the scope is sufficiently targeted to ensure the information will be useful to your council.

Bids will be shortlisted and successful applicants will be notified shortly after their application. The peer challenges are expected to take place between March 2023 and the end of July 2023. If successful, we will ask you to indicate the dates your council would like to take part. These must be two consecutive working days.

For more information:
If you would like to informally discuss the scope of your bid, or what is entailed in a peer challenge, please email

Senior officer programme – coming soon

Programme aims

To support senior managers of culture and libraries services to:

  • Develop a greater understanding of the role of cultural and library services in the future economic growth of the local area.
  • Develop skills to lead entrepreneurial thinking within their services and the confidence to apply those skills.
  • Build and strengthen their peer networks, share information, knowledge and expertise. The programme will be attended by both library and culture senior staff supporting a unique opportunity for peer-to-peer learning across these specialisms.
  • Develop a vision about how their services can contribute to tackling social challenges in the current context.
  • Develop an understanding of change theory and how to apply it.
  • Explore the potential for arts, culture and libraries to work with officer and political stakeholders to deliver across council agendas.

Join the waiting list so we can let you know direct when further details are available.