ACE ill equipped to take over MLA functions, say MPs

Report into arts and heritage funding calls for rethink on MLA takeover by arts council
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Rebecca Atkinson
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A group of MPs has condemned the government’s decision to abolish the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and warned that Arts Council England (ACE) is not an effective replacement.

The Culture Media and Sport Select Committee has published a report into the funding of the arts of heritage, which urges the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to review ACE’s museum and library functions in 2012.

It states: “We are concerned that ACE does not have the expertise or the resources to carry on, adequately, the functions of the MLA. We welcome ACE’s commitment to retain key MLA staff. However, given the reductions ACE is having to make in its own operating costs, it is unrealistic to expect that ACE can carry out the role as effectively as the MLA.”

Mark Taylor, director of the Museums Association, said that while a review of museums under ACE would be good practice, 2012 was too early to do this.  

The report also accuses the arts council of “spending far too much” on itself in previous years. And while it notes that the council’s funding cuts of 30% are “severe”, it adds that ACE has previously wasted money on projects such as The Public gallery in West Bromwich, which cost nearly £15m over budget.

"DISASTROUS" CUTS

Submissions to the committee from museums and arts organisations point to local authority funding cuts alongside reductions in ACE funding and the report warns this “double-whammy” could be disastrous for some organisations.

John Whittingdale, chairman of the committee, said: “We realise that cuts in public spending will have a major impact on arts and heritage organisations, forcing some closures and we regret that. However, at a time when cuts are biting across the board, it is right that all sectors share the burden.”

Elsewhere in the report, the committee suggests selling parts of the Arts Council Collection of 7,500 artworks, which is valued at just under £97m. ACE is also criticised for withdrawing funding from Arts & Business after 2012 and there are additional concerns that the heritage sector has “suffered disproportionately” from funding cuts.

An ACE statement said parts of the report were out of date. "Selling off works of art from the arts council collection is also not a sensible solution to the current budget cuts,” it added.

Click here to read the full report from the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee (pdf)



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