Agenda Item No


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Cabinet Meeting: 29 November 2011


Cabinet Member for Leisure and Tourism


Arts Connect Memorandum of Understanding


Purpose of the Report

1.             The report aims to seek members’ approval to agree a regional shared service for the arts within South East Wales, involving the local authorities listed below:

·               Bridgend County Borough Council

·               Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council

·               Rhondda Cynon Tafff County Borough Council

·               Vale of Glamorgan Council


1.             To agree a Memorandum of Understanding to establish and join a regional shared service for the Arts, covering partner authorities in South East Wales including the Vale of Glamorgan.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To ensure that actions are taken to increase collaboration in the arts and to improve services.


2.             Cabinet agreed in February 2011 to join in principle a collaborative arts service called 'Arts Connect'. The Operational Manager - Corporate Policy and Communications was authorised to negotiate on behalf of the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

3.             Arts Connect is advised and supported by the Arts Council of Wales, Welsh Assembly Government, and Welsh Local Government Association representatives, who are also members of the Arts Connect Leadership Group.

4.             Arts Connect is a partnership of four local authorities: Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, and the Vale of Glamorgan, led by Rhondda Cynon Taff.  Members are advised that Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen and Caerphilly Councils have now withdrawn from the collaboration, although both Torfaen and Caerphilly may be interested in joining the partnership at a later date. However, the Leadership Group is of the view that the collaboration can begin effectively with a membership of four local authorities.

5.             Arts Connect was developed in 2008 to lead an action-research change management programme to support the implementation of key Welsh Assembly Government initiatives: Beyond Boundaries (Delivering the Beecham Review) and the Wales Arts Review.  The programme also tackled some of the shared operational challenges and opportunities that had been identified by officers in the local authority arts services, in terms of boosting their contribution to the creative economy and the cultural identity of Wales.

6.             Since 2008 Arts Connect has been endorsed by the Connecting South East Wales Board and has assessed alternative models of sustaining and developing local government arts services. This includes sub-regional strategic planning and policy mechanisms for the arts within the context of the Wales Arts Review.

7.             During 2011 each of the local authority partners’ respective Cabinets have approved, in principle, the development of a single shared arts service on the basis of achieving a secure and sound future for local government arts provision, particularly in the context of public sector finance challenges.

Relevant Issues and Options

8.             The benefits identified for a single shared Arts Service are grouped as  follows:

·               Financial – more for less by realizing efficiencies of 10% net and to provide one single source to apply for external funds

·               Leadership – a single vision with shared aims; a new seamless service design and management structure; a more focussed and strategic Arts Development Service, drawing upon the wide expertise; coordinated services such as marketing, box office, events, sponsorship and external funding.

·               Profile of the arts – a stronger ‘pulling power’ creating a critical mass, resulting in greater influence at regional and national level.

·               Customer/Citizen – enhanced focus on audiences, citizens, communities, artists, increased level and range of participatory opportunities, improved level of engagement with local people and communities

·               Employees – access to a wider range of specialist skills, utilising the experience and expertise from a wide range of staff.

·               Governance – one regional arts programme that will be effective and sustainable into the future.

9.             The final Memorandum of Understanding is attached at Appendix 1.  The shared arts service will be hosted by Rhondda Cynon Taff and an Arts Connect Leadership Group, made up of representatives from each partner authority, will manage and monitor the work of the shared service. Whilst it is accepted that competing strategic priorities and conflicts could arise, a regional approach is key to delivering a varied and vibrant arts programme in the area.  This Group will also approve the work programme for the shared arts service and measure performance against strategic targets. 

10.        Currently RCT leads the Arts Connect change management programme on behalf of all of the local authority partners.  Once it is established as the new regional shared service, all partners’ arts service staff, including the Arts Development Officer in the Vale, would become part of the Arts Connect team on their existing terms and conditions of employment. The changes will be subject to consultation with Trade Unions.

Timescale for implementation

11.        The timescale for implementing a regional shared service (originally 1 April 2011) has slipped, due to discussions regarding staffing, financial and governance issues.  It is now expected that the collaboration will commence in April 2012. 

12.        Cabinet is therefore requested to support the attached Memorandum of Understanding for the shared service and to endorse the benefits for this Council from such a partnership.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

13.        The budget for arts in the Vale (£48,450) will remain with the Council. The responsibility for the development and maintenance of capital assets i.e. each of the local authority managed theatres and galleries within the Arts Connect area, will remain the responsibility of the existing host authority. 

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

14.        WAG has agreed a new 'cultural duty' for local authorities in Wales; detailed guidance has not yet been published.

Crime and Disorder Implications

15.        Participation in arts activities can reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. The Youth Offending Service has developed links with arts development and has undertaken various arts activities.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

16.        Consultation will be undertaken with Trade Unions.

Corporate/Service Objectives

17.        The draft Corporate Plan 2011-2015 includes an action to develop operational partnerships with other Councils to promote shared service provision.

Policy Framework and Budget

18.        This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

19.        Consultation to date has been between:

·               The chief officers responsible for the Arts, WLGA, WAG, and Arts Council for Wales.  All officers are in agreement with the Memorandum of Understanding.

·               The Connecting South East Wales Board has been supportive of the proposals.

·               Lawyers from each of the four local authorities have agreed the content of the Memorandum of Understanding.

20.        Consultation with the Trade Unions will be undertaken on a regional and local basis.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

21.        Corporate Resources

Background Papers

Arts Connect report to the Connecting South East Wales Board, January 2011.

Contact Officer

Beverly Noon 01446 709746

Officers Consulted

All relevant officers have been consulted on the contents of this report:

Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration

Director of Finance, ICT and Property

Head of Performance and Development

Operational Manager - Leisure and Tourism

Operational Manager - Human Resources

Responsible Officer: John Maitland Evans, Chief Executive