HC Deb 24 April 1991 vol 189 cc463-5W
Mr. Bowis

To ask the Minister for the Arts what progress has been made in implementing the reforms in the structure of arts funding.

Mr. Renton

Good progress has been made since my statement to the House on 19 December,(Official Report, columns 300–01).

The chairs of seven of the 10 new regional arts boards have now been appointed with my consent, and a good start has been made in appointing other board members. All the new boards are on target to be in place and operational from 1 October.

The Arts Council has also submitted the advice that I called for on the staffing structures for the new system, and on the initial stage of delegation of clients to the new boards from 1 April 1992. I have today written to the chairman of the Arts Council setting out my conclusions on these matters, and a copy of my letter has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

I am confident that the process of reform on which my predecessors and I have embarked will produce a system which delivers a better service to the public through a clearer definition of responsibilities. I am anxious to ensure that one of the original aims of the reforms—that of securing administrative savings—is also achieved.

I have therefore asked the chairman of the Arts Council to build on the work already done by the Arts Council and the regional bodies to ensure that this is realised. To assist in this process I have set as a guideline the achievement of a progress administrative saving of at least £1 million per annum in current terms by 1993–94, by which time the present reforms will have been substantially implemented. This represents around 10 per cent. of current staff costs. I have every confidence that the Arts Council and the regional bodies will be able to achieve a saving of this order. It is a challenging but attainable target. It is most important that the public throughout the country get the opportunity to see more performances of quality and that arts organisations get a greater share of the public subsidy.

I have asked the Arts Council to ensure that the necessary further work is undertaken quickly to ensure that the new boards are fully operational from 1 October 1991 as planned.

I have also approved an initial list of bodies for delegation from the Arts Council to the new regional arts boards on 1 April 1992. As I said in my earlier statement, further significant delegation from 1993 will need to await the outcome of work on the national arts strategy, due for completion in the middle of next year. The Arts Council has proposed that there should be some scope for further delegation in the meantime.

I would see this happening on only a fairly limited scale, and where it is clear to all parties that this would be beneficial. The Arts Council has also proposed, and I have accepted, that the new boards should be involved now in the joint assessment of clients who in due course may be administered by them. This will be most important in building up the confidence of clients in the ability of the new boards.

A great deal of work has also been done to improve still further present systems of planning, budgeting and control. I have asked the Arts Council to ensure that this work is translated into a clear statement of policy objectives for all parts of the system, and that management systems, including an appropriate range of performance indicators, are developed to ensure that these objectives are achieved. These indicators will also need to assess customer satisfaction. I shall expect to see the results of this work reflected in the Arts Council's corporate plan for 1992–93, and in the corresponding corporate plans for the new regional arts boards.

I expect these decisions to lead to a better structured and leaner arts funding system which will be able to manage the further delegation of clients with a corresponding benefit to the ultimate beneficiaries, the clients and the general public.

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