Culture and libraries peer challenge

The LGA and Arts Council England are providing the opportunity for councils to participate in a fully funded peer challenge of their cultural or library services.

In partnership with Arts Council England, the LGA would like to hear from councils who want to benefit from a peer challenge of their cultural service. Perhaps you are considering a new delivery model? Wanting to explore new partnerships, or striving to strengthen strategic links between your cultural services and other council services? Or looking to involve communities and partners in developing a radical new vision?

In 2018 the LGA and Arts Council England introduced a specific library service peer challenge. Following the success of these we are delighted to be able to offer further library service peer challenges in 2019. Libraries have transformed significantly over the past decade, but there are still further steps to be taken.

The library service 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 community libraries or a trust model, or assessing how well the library service is embedded in council delivery of corporate objectives. The peer team can also help you to assess your evidence of impact and advice on how to target limited resources or explore the strength of your partnerships and identify possibilities for more collaborative working, among other things

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 service. The team will spend 1.5 days in your council meeting key councillors, officers and partners, and seeing your work in both theory and practice.

Following the visit, councils will receive a 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.


There are seven library peer challenges and three cultural services peer challenges available in 2019/20. All challenges must have taken place by 31 March 2020.

The criteria:

  • 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.

How to apply

To express an interest in either challenges, please email by Friday 20 September with a short summary (approximately two sides of A4) of 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 relevant 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 expressions of interest 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.

Councils can also request a bespoke peer challenge outside of the Arts Council England funded programme. The council would be asked to cover the cost of the peer challenge, and a quote can be provided following a discussion about what is required from the peer challenge.


Bids will be shortlisted and successful applicants will be notified in October. The peer challenges are expected to take place between October 2019 and March 2020.

For more information

If you would like to informally discuss the scope of your bid, or what is entailed in a peer challenge, please contact / 0207 664 3198.