From the Guardian online 9 December 2009:
What does the pre-budget report mean for culture?
Culture department quangos and advisory committees are to be streamlined, promises Darling
The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, has already announced cuts to arm’s length bodies – or quangos – in order to reduce bureaucratic costs. But in the pre-budget report he promised that a review, to be completed by the 2010 budget, will identify further options for “rationalisation” of such bodies.
Darling singled out the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, saying that the government would consider “options for rationalising up to a third of DCMS non-museum arm’s length bodies, including streamlining 10 DCMS advisory bodies and bringing forward plans for merging the UK Film Council and the British Film Institute”. What does that mean in practice? The merging of the BFI and the UK Film Council has already been announced (if not wholeheartedly welcomed in the film world). The Film Council is also losing 20% of its staff – albeit, according to its chief executive John Woodward, in order to counteract the loss of lottery funds to the Olympics rather than as a response to “smarter government” initiatives.
Meanwhile, the other major non-museum arm’s length body, Arts Council England, is near to completing a massive organisational review, which will see 21% of its workforce gone and £6.5m in savings that will be rediverted directly to the arts – a kind of pre-emptive strike, if you like.
If one takes one’s speculative cue from the Government’s plans for the UK Film Council and BFI, it is those arm’s length bodies (which also include English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, Sport England and UK Sport) that are seen to overlap or duplicate functions that could be required to share resources or even merge under the review. (The Conservatives have already said they would like to see a merged English Heritage and Heritage Lottery Fund.)
The advisory bodies in line to be “streamlined” include the Theatres Trust, the Advisory Council on Libraries and the Advisory Committee on the Government Art Collection. All this would be designed protect frontline services – though critics claim that such mergers and rationalisations could create more problems than are solved.
Footnote: the DCMS website contains a full list of its arm’s length bodies (though, remember Darling’s excluding museums) and advisory bodies.