In these times of austerity, the Parliamentary Information Office of the Parliamentary Yearbook is currently following closely the arrangements for the funding of arts and heritage organisations for a major feature in the next edition
At the government’s request, Arts Council England assumed responsibility for the development of public libraries in October 2011. The Government and the Arts Council invest more than £500,000 a year to support development work in libraries.
A package of measures to support a vibrant, sustainable, 21st Century public library service was announced by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey last week in a speech to the 7th National Library Services conference in London.
Outlining his vision for the future of libraries in England, Mr Vaizey announced that: the Arts Council will make £6 million available to help libraries work with arts and cultural organisations and local communities; a series of pilots will test automatic library membership for primary school children; and, for the first time, comparative reports will be published to show how library authorities’ services compare across England.
Mr Vaizey said:
“Despite the pressures on local authority budgets there continues to be innovation and development in library services up and down the country. And now that Arts Council England has taken on responsibility for the development of libraries, individual services are forging important new links with arts and cultural organisations.
“I want to see libraries expand their role and become hubs for access to local arts and culture. The Arts Council fund is a hugely exciting development for our vital library services.”
The three new initiatives are:
- a £6 million Arts Council fund – as part of the Grants for the Arts programme – designed to help people get involved in arts and cultural activity through libraries. The grants, which will be open to applications from September, will be available to library authorities in England to fund partnerships with artists, arts organisations and cultural bodies. Arts Council England will release details of how library services can apply to the Grants for the Arts fund to encourage public libraries to work with artists and arts organisations before the fund opens to applications in September 2012.
- new ‘comparative profile reports’ for all library authorities in England, commissioned and paid for by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for one year. The reports, developed by the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accounting (CIPFA), will allow library authorities to benchmark their services against others across the country. The DCMS-commissioned reports, based on 2011/12 survey data, are expected to be published in December and will help library authorities to consider their performance and improve services. This will allow authorities to compare their services to a grouping of comparable authorities, known as their “nearest neighbours”, and improve services if necessary. Library authorities will be able to commission their own individual reports from CIPFA for years other than 2011-12, including their reports for 2010-11, which are available now. The data will be publicly available on-line
- adopting former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen’s idea of piloting the introduction of library cards for primary school children. DCMS, the Department for Education (DfE) and the Arts Council will launch pilot projects in September to explore which models work best. Former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen addressed the idea of library cards for primary school children to Ministers at DfE. The Government will announce the pilot areas and different models in September.
We shall be adding to the article as there are further developments and any changes to the plans will be reflected in the content. A full report covering arts and culture funding of will be published in print and online in the next edition of the Parliamentary Year book.