LGA response to the Arts England Council draft strategy 2020-2030

Arts Council England (ACE) plays a crucial role in funding and supporting cultural activity at a local level, including acting as the development agency for public libraries and museums. This consultation on ACE’s 10-year strategy for 2020-2030 offers a key opportunity for councils and ACE to collaborate on a joint vision for creative and culturally accessible communities.

Key messages

  1. Our member councils remain the country’s biggest public funder of culture, investing over £2 billion each year into museums, libraries and other cultural services and playing a key role in increasing exposure to culture for communities across the country. Councils lead on the spatial planning, regulation and infrastructure that underpins a thriving visitor economy, of which culture is often a major component.
  1. The LGA is therefore pleased to contribute to the Arts Council England (ACE) draft strategy 2020-2030, and we hope to continue working in partnership with ACE to strengthen creative and cultural opportunities in cities, towns and villages across the country.
  1. Arts Council England’s vision for the next ten years is ambitious and puts at its core three outcomes which will improve the cultural offer across the country for everyone. We are pleased to see this vision respond to our 2018 consultation submission by focusing strongly on partnership working and building culture in communities. The commitment to investing in skills development for the cultural sector is an area we strongly support.
  1. The vision is clear and we look forward to seeing the detail of how it will be delivered develop. However, we believe the vision could be bolder in establishing new ways of working and providing leadership to the cultural sector. As one of ACE’s key national partners we hope to work together to realise the vision.
  1. We are pleased to see the broad definition of culture which allows individuals and communities to define what culture means for them. This should encourage more people to feel that their art is recognised and valued, in turn enabling more people to engage in the arts and creating positive and lasting change for communities.
  1. It is positive to see the strong inclusion of local government in the strategy, and the acknowledgement that councils are a key partner in achieving ACE’s objectives. In addition to their traditional role of commissioning cultural activity directly, councils are increasingly acting as place-shapers and conveners, bringing partners together to achieve shared local outcomes. This role and way of contributing needs to be fully recognised and supported by ACE’s new strategy, particularly in relation to place-based cultural development.
  1. We strongly endorse the cultural communities outcome and the recognition that cultural organisations must work collaboratively to support local agendas from pure cultural creation to tackling loneliness and improving wellbeing. However, the strategy as a whole needs to better embed this place-based approach, particularly in terms of funding. ACE’s funded programmes need to move away from predominantly siloed, artform-specific investment to thematic initiatives which bring the creative sector together to work on shared local objectives. This will also build resilience of the cultural sector.
  1. The cultural landscape and the funding situation for councils has changed dramatically since the publication of the last strategy. Councils will face an overall funding gap of £8 billion by 2025, meaning that many are no longer able to invest as much in our arts, museums and libraries as they would like. To ensure everyone across the country continues to have access to quality cultural services and experiences, ACE’s strategy should reflect the current pressures and ensure funding is accessible. For example, all funding streams should be open to councils and their delivery partners, and ACE should look to provide more flexibility for ‘in kind’ and match funding contributions.
  1. The strategy does not fully recognise the role and needs of public libraries as it remains too heavily focused on collections. Beyond their role as a cultural space, libraries are infrastructure organisations which play a vital role in bringing together communities. Across the country, libraries are delivering on diverse local agendas including skills and business development, education for children and young people, and health and wellbeing. Libraries offer a significant contribution to all elements of the strategy and delivery plan and this should be embraced.

Download the full response
LGA response to the Arts England Council draft strategy 2020-2030