Councils are well placed to lead local action around culture and help people to identify with, understand, appreciate, engage with and feel a sense of ‘belonging’ in their local area.
Local government remains the largest funder of culture and is most attuned to local needs. Councils are well placed to lead local action around culture and help people to identify with, understand, appreciate, engage with and feel a sense of ‘belonging’ in their local area.
Councils and their local partners are well placed to lead a step-change in cultural participation. Not only are councils the biggest public sector investor in culture (including museums and galleries), spending over £1 billion per year, they also have an important leadership role to play. Councils can bring together schools, voluntary and community arts sector organisations, National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs), health services, and the private sector to help forge partnerships, unblock barriers to cultural participation, and help to improve visitor numbers.
Major change is underway as councils seek to transform the provision of cultural activity, working closely with their communities and partners. Against a backdrop of reduced funding, councils are taking a strong lead on activities that reach beyond their traditional role as cultural service providers. European funding has been an important source of income for museums and galleries, and the recent decision to leave the European Union may require alternative provision to be made.
In order for local arts and cultural services to continue to thrive, we need the Government to advocate the economic and strategic value of museums, libraries and cultural services and to steer national policy in a way which reinforces collaboration between sectors. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport can enhance this work by working with the Office for Civil Society and Innovation to ensure that local museums are able to access volunteering and engagement opportunities offered by the National Citizens Service, and comparable civic engagement initiatives. The Department also needs to be working with those council areas considering a devolution deal to explore how museums and a cultural offer can be included.