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Monday, 16 July, 2001, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
'Streamlined' future for Arts Council
Arts Council of England website
The Arts Council aims to save up to 10m a year
The Arts Council of England has unveiled its plans to merge with the country's 10 regional arts boards with the aim of creating a "streamlined" service and significant cost savings.

The new organisation will aim to cut down on bureaucracy and put up to 10m a year from predicted savings back into the arts.

Nine regional offices will continue with "increased decision making powers" and a head office based in London will work exclusively at the national level.

The plans have been praised by the new Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell as a "key piece of public service reform".

One resource

Under the plans, the chair of each regional council will sit on the national council of the new organisation.

The present system sees the Arts Council of England fund the 10 regional boards who allocate funding separately.

Arts funding for England will now be effectively pooled from one resource with the aim of simplifying the application process.

Gerry Robinson, chairman of the Arts Council, said: "We want to achieve what is best for the arts.

"These reforms to the arts funding system will deliver a more effective and streamlined service for artists and arts organisations."

He added: "The reforms will also mean that up to 10m that is currently spent on managing the arts will be spent each year on the arts themselves.

'Best people'

"For artists the reforms will mean more money and a simpler way of getting support. For the regions it will mean more power and a greater say in national policy."

The proposals have been given a cautious welcome in some circles.

A statement from the London Arts Board - one of the 10 regional arts boards being merged - said that it was yet to be persuaded that "the proposals genuinely strengthen London's position and bring real new powers to the region".

The statement added: "It is hard to see how the desire to centralise and delegate simultaneously will work in practice."

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said: "The new organisation must work differently, must work well and must attract and retain the best people."

She added: "The Arts Council's plans provide an excellent blueprint for a new single organisation with much greater levels of local involvement.

"The regions will be at the centre of the new proposals with a clear intention that decision making should be as devolved as possible."

In 2001/2 the Arts Council will distribute about 252m of government money to the arts, rising to 337m in 2003/4.

Separate Arts Councils are in charge of funding projects in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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See also:

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Arts Council to cut red tape
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