Service Assessment Frameworks: A consultation supporting comprehensive performance assessment for single tier and county councils from 2005 to 2008

July 2005
To: CPA, Audit Commission

From: Museums Association, 24 Calvin Street, London E1 6NW

28 July 2005

The Museums Association (MA) is an independent membership organisation representing museums and galleries in the UK and people who work for them. The Association has over 4,500 individual members and 600 institutional members.

These institutional members encompass around 1500 museums in the UK ranging from the largest government-funded national museums to small volunteer-run charitable trust museums.

The MA has already responded to Proposals for Comprehensive Performance Assessment from 2005 and welcome the ongoing consultations. Here, we would like to comment briefly on the Service Assessment Framework proposals affecting county councils and single tier county councils in England and Wales from 2005 onwards.

We have submitted comments rather than respond formally as the Museums Association does not operate or oversee any BVPI's directly, although we represent a significant local authority museum membership who administer these indicators directly.

We join the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, ILAM, NALGAO, CLOA and others in reiterating our continued support for the Culture Block within the CPA proposals and we take an active part in joint work between these organisations.

The Culture Block will enable local authorities to accord these services the profile and importance in a way not seen before. It is timely that Local Authorities should be required to recognise the importance of the huge range of benefits culture brings to local, regional and national development and enhancement.

The MA has comments on one general point. We stress that variance between local authorities, their communities and their services is to be both welcomed and accommodated.

Any performance scheme needs to take this into account and any attempt to impose strict conformity will make the initiative meaningless and unnecessarily cumbersome.

Local services need to have the freedom to decide for themselves, along with their communities, what is important to take forward for specific improvement.

Our major concern for comment on the Culture PI is the fact that BV170 does not seem to have been included in this round of consultation on the understanding that these indicators are too difficult to apply consistently across all authorities. BV170 a, b and c are crucial to museum statistics, although not wholly representative of all the work museums do in reaching out to existing and new audiences.

But visitor numbers and particularly schools visitor numbers are an absolutely crucial statistic for museums to collect. Visitors to cultural services are "killer" indicators to use the consultation's phrase, albeit crude ones.

It is vital that these indicators continue to be supported and included and of course, on a local level they do continue to operate. But MA would welcome an opportunity to work with MLA council, the Audit Commission and others to try to find a workable solution for CPA.

The Museums Association continues to support the proposed retention of BV119c, satisfaction with museums indicator.

As for the likely revisions for CPA reporting 2006, we are extremely supportive of the addition of accreditation to the proposed BV indicators.

Accreditation will build on the excellent work done by the former scheme of registration and push museums to develop and comprehensively assess their development.

The MA would also like to highlight the fact that museums already play a large part in an additional six of the proposed indicators for 2006 and museums' ability to deliver to these indicators should be explicitly included.

The six areas are representative-ness: of 11 to 19 year olds participation; of social class D/E participation; of over 60 year olds participation; of BME participation. In addition are included: percentage of participation by people with disabilities and; percentage of population volunteering (in museums, not just sport).

Museums already do a considerable amount of work in these areas and Local Authorities need to be more aware of their museums' ability to contribute to them.

It would be a particular advantage to be able to monitor the involvement of the volunteering population. The volunteer force is a key factor for many museums both through the valuable assistance and expertise these people bring and for the sense of community participation engendered by volunteering.

In all of the above, we feel the commission should not overlook two key developments in the museum sector.

The first is simply a point to note. Renaissance in the Regions is a scheme managed by MLA Council to help regional museums, including local authority museums, modernise and reach out further to all kinds of people in their local communities.

This initiative has enabled museums under its banner to get themselves into a better position than ever before to deliver quality services, especially in the areas of the six proposed BVs cited above.

The second development is the enhancement of the ability of museum development officers (MDO) to assist museums with their development (much work has been made possible through the Renaissance initiative).

MDOs work with all kinds of museums in a region but are largely employed by the local authorities to help improve services to their communities.

MDOs make a significant contribution to the ability of community organisation such as volunteer run museums and to museums in local authorities to deliver work in line with the six revised PIs for 2006 mentioned above.

Additional indicators for local authorities in the future should include indicators for the provision of or contribution to a museum development or advisory service and the level of satisfaction of clients with that service.

Finally, the MA would like to reiterate its previous messages and join with other organisations, particularly MLA Council and strongly encourage the Audit Commission to work closely with DCMS on these issues.

We would also welcome further opportunities to work with the commission on the ongoing consultations.

We will be continuing to support and work closely with the MLA Council and to take part in work with the National Cultural Forum, comprising ILAM, CLOA and NALGAO.

Judy Aitken, Policy Officer
020 7426 6970

Museums Association, 24 Calvin Street, London E1 6NW