Ed Vaizey speech to NLGN Conference


Delighted to be giving the closing speech at this conference.

I know the various speakers and panellists at the event today have generated some really interesting ideas about how councils can continue to support a resilient cultural scene.

Together with the NGLN’s research which was published over the summer, there’s certainly a lot of things for local authorities to consider, in terms of the future of the cultural services they provide.

I’ve been asked to talk about the relationship between culture and local government: how it can be strengthened and how it will continue in the future.

It’s important that we acknowledge the wide-ranging benefits that culture can bring to communities around the country. So I’m really pleased that so many of you are here today to consider how we can protect highly valued cultural services.

Local authorities are the largest funders of culture in this country.

I recognise the fact that there are financial pressures on local authorities, and that difficult decisions have to be made, but it’s clear that many local authorities are recognising value of culture.

Value of culture

Culture isn’t just an important service: it’s an essential one.

There are many wide ranging benefits of culture – boosting the economy, creating jobs, attracting tourists, improving health and wellbeing, building community cohesion, strengthening local pride, revitalising places, and generating growth in the creative industries.

Music, performing and visual arts contributed over £4.5 billion in terms of GVA to the Economy in 2012 and accounted for 224,000 jobs.

Recent research from Arts Development UK found that for every £1 spent by local authorities on the arts, leverage from grant aid and partnership working brings up to £4 of additional funding.

Our exceptional cultural institutions are recognised all over the world and have a huge impact on our tourism industry. Indeed, all five of the UKs top visitor attractions in 2013 are museums or galleries, and nearly 40 million people visit our national museums and galleries each year.

Many of the English cities saw an increase in visitors last year. Birmingham, Brighton and Hove, Bath, Southampton and York have all seen genuine and impressive increases in inbound tourism.

But – of course – it’s important to remember that we also fund culture because it inspires and excites us. It’s something that people feel incredibly passionately about.

Our latest Taking Part survey found that 78% of adults had attended or participated in the arts.

Our libraries are very often the cornerstones of communities – bringing together a range of services including arts and culture. Our art galleries and museums entertain and educate. Our heritage sites tell the story of where we’re from, and create a sense of belonging.

Culture can make places attractive to live and work in. It brings communities together. It’s part of the fabric of our society and our national lives. It has the capacity to improve health and wellbeing, as well as educational attainment.

Important that we think about all aspects of culture – even those that are ‘difficult to measure,’ like the impact on the social development of an area.

DCMS approach is to take a more holistic view to capture the economic, social and cultural impacts of our sector’s investments. These impacts are not mutually exclusive, and the power of culture is its ability to produce a wide range of impacts.

In order to strengthen the case for cultural investment, DCMS is looking to advance the evidence base around the value of culture, particularly in relation to its intrinsic, economic and social impacts.

We recently published work on wellbeing, health and education impacts which found that those engaging with the arts as an audience member were 5.4% more likely to report good health.

Culture is proven to help increase motivation, inspire hope, provide relaxation and reduce the symptoms of depression.

So it has the capacity to not only improve people’s lives, but to reduce people’s claims on health and social services.

DCMS is also looking to publish further work on wellbeing, health and education impacts, as well as research on local economic impacts.

In collaboration with the Arts Council England, English Heritage and Sport England, DCMS have commissioned a report which reviews the evidence base on the social impacts of sport and culture, focussing on four social impacts: improved health; reduced crime; increased social capital and improved education outcomes. This report will advance our understanding of culture’s wide ranging impacts on society.

Local authorities’ role

Many local authorities recognise the fact that culture is an essential service.

Durham County Council, for example, used the momentum generated by bidding to become 2013 City of Culture by designating 2013 the “year of culture”. Half a million visitors generated millions of pounds into the economy, with the Lumiere festival of light worth at least £5m – transforming the city with a series of light installations and projections from leading regional, national and international artists.

East Lindsey have transformed Skegness through a cultural programme, centred on the now-regular SO Festival, bringing the local community together and allowed them to get behind what they see as their event

The UK City of Culture competition has been a huge success, and I’m looking forward to seeing the benefits that Hull will enjoy in 2017.

I know that times are tough

Many local councils are already looking innovatively at how to deliver services differently and more efficiently – new partnerships, new delivery models, new ways of engaging communities.

Pleased to read in the NGLN’s report that 70% of local authorities who responded to the survey said they had implemented or considered implementing stand-alone trusts or community interest companies.

Need to find ways to continue cultural provision, even in difficult times. As I said earlier, you are the largest funders of culture, and your support in providing cultural services up and down the country is vital.

Many local authorities already recognise the need to think differently about how we can provide these services.

Outsourcing of library services in Hounslow to the John Laing Integrated Services has delivered over £1m of efficiencies for the borough.

York’s Explore Centre are set to become part of the first mutual library and archive service in the country. The Cabinet Office Mutuals Support Programme will provide up to £100,000 of business planning and legal advice for the project.

York Museums Trust was set up in 2002 to manage York Art Gallery, York Castle Museum, Yorkshire Museum and Gardens and York St Mary’s. The Trust has increased overall visitor numbers from 387,000 in the first full year of operation to 660,000 for 2011/12, overseen a major refurbishment of York Art Gallery, a complete refurbishment of Yorkshire Museum, and created a new contemporary art venue at York St Mary’s.

And it’s great to see so many partnerships being formed, reflecting the fact that culture is delivered by a vast number of organisations. Universities forming partnerships with cultural organisations. Local Enterprise Partnerships. Culture and tourism partnerships. National organisations working with regional organisations.

Worcester’s Hive Library – Europe’s first university and public library – is a wonderful example of a local authority and University joining forces.

The House of Memories programme at NML is demonstrating how a cultural organisation can support the health and social care sector and access untapped local cultural resources, by working with providers to help support the carers of people living with dementia, delivering a programme centred on the objects, archives and stories to provide information, skills and knowledge to facilitate a positive quality of life for sufferers.

The Arts Council/Visit England partnership £3m ‘Cultural Destinations’ fund is about local authorities working hand in hand with tourism and cultural bodies to boost the local visitor economy.

And with local authorities now having responsibility for public health funds, there are even more opportunities for better partnership working between health, sport and education.

Would encourage local authorities to consider alternative models of funding when thinking about the future of cultural provision.

Government’s role

We want to work with local authorities and others to continue developing the evidence base around the impact of culture.

Government strongly believes in the wide-ranging benefits that cultural services can offer, and we’ve tried to protect these sectors during difficult economic times.

At the last Spending Review, arts and museums were only cut by 5%. Over the lifetime of this Parliament, Government is putting in around £7bn public and lottery funding into the arts, museums and heritage.

From April 2012 we increased the share of National Lottery funding for the arts from 16.67% to 20%.

We’ve continued to provide substantial amounts of funding for music education programmes from 2012 to 2015, including for the new network of 123 music education hubs managed by Arts Council England.

We are also trying to innovate, and deliver services in new ways.

We’re working with cultural organisations to encourage the development of other sources of income, including philanthropic giving and independent fundraising.

Our £100m Catalyst fund – in partnership with ACE and HLF – has awarded over 400 grants to help numerous organisations strengthen their fundraising abilities and diversify their revenue sources.

Our film, High End TV, and animation tax reliefs have been vital in supporting our creative industries. We recently announced a new theatre tax relief to encourage theatre production across the whole of the UK, and provide a strong incentive for touring productions.

Last year, the Chancellor announced a package of operational and financial freedoms for the national museums, initially on a four year pilot basis. This will help them act more strategically, increase revenues from their commercial operations and attract more philanthropic donations.

I mentioned libraries earlier, and how they can act as meeting places and important sources of local information. We have a strong library service in England, with over three thousand public libraries, and Councils investing £783 million a year.

Of course, it is for individual Local Authorities to determine how best to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” public library service to their local community, within available resources.

But – to support the development of the library sector – the Independent Library Report, commissioned by DCMS and led by William Sieghart, will report on the public library service in England later this year.

William is considering the complex issues facing libraries and will make recommendations to both me and DCLG shortly. It’s important that local government continues to engage in this work. There is a greater need for sharing resources and best practice, and I welcome your ideas on how we can work together to ensure that libraries can continue to provide an important cultural link for our society.

Participation in the arts is currently at an all-time high with almost 4 in 5 adults participating in the arts last year.

There’s been a lot of debate recently about the balance of funding between London and the regions. It’s an important issue, and I know that the Arts Council is working to achieve a better balance from public funding and Lottery investment across the country in their current investment round.

It’s vital that everyone has the opportunity to experience and participate in cultural activities, and that people aren’t disadvantaged by where they live. I know that many national organisations are aiming to expand their reach and work across the country: the Tate, for example, which administers the successful ‘Artist Rooms’ programme – reaching almost 30 million visitors in exhibitions at museums and galleries in all corners of the UK.

The Arts Council’s ‘Strategic touring programme’ encourages collaboration between organisations, so that more people across England experience and are inspired by the arts. And the ‘Creative People and Places’ fund focuses investment in parts of the country where people’s involvement in the arts is significantly below the national average.

ACE has announced that it will increase its total number of Major Partner Museums for 2015-18 to 21 across the country, and they will receive in total more than £20 million per year in from 2015. These museums lead wide programmes of work for schools, families and lifelong learning as well as best practice in the sector and focus on becoming more sustainable organisations through increasing earned income.


While there are many challenges for local government in providing cultural services, it’s clear that culture underlines most of our lives in some way.

Strong cultural and sporting sectors bring benefits for us all economically and socially.

Your commitment to culture, sport and tourism is therefore crucial.

Thank you.

photo credit: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport