Harnessing the power of culture

Many of us in local government are facing very tough choices in determining where we spend our limited resources, following a Spring Budget which did not include measures to adequately fund the local services people rely on every day.

Arts and culture can often seem like the easiest thing to cut during these times when the demand for social care or homelessness support seems to inevitably swallow more and more of our budgets.  

However, let’s not forget that these cultural services are vital and well-used community-facing services that are valued by our residents. 

In these tough times, people do need to see something that gives them hope and that they value, somewhere that can boost their mental health, gives them access to free learning and skills to apply for that next job, or simply a quiet place in the warm away from their over-crowded household.

That’s not to say that these services must, or can, continue to be delivered in the way that they have been. 

It may be that some of these cherished buildings are no longer fit for purpose, or no longer in the right place. 

Could closing one or two free up room to create a new co-located facility, with new outreach activity in neighbourhoods reaching those people who never walked through the door of the old facility?

Or have you tried that and now want to assess how it has worked, with feedback from your partner organisations, team members and residents?

This is where the LGA and Arts Council England can help.

The LGA offers a range of fully funded improvement programmes for culture and library services, to support councillors and lead officers to articulate the potential power of culture and libraries within their own strategic work. 

These offers, which are funded by and co-designed with Arts Council England, are themed around the areas that councils tell the LGA are most relevant to them.

My council, Telford & Wrekin, recently took part in an LGA culture peer challenge. 

We worked with the peer team to co-design a targeted brief to provide greater insights regarding our local theatre and wider cultural offer, in the context of levelling up and community engagement.

We were impressed by the experience and professionalism of the peer team. 

The process was transparent and collaborative, and enabled us to hear good practice examples from the peer team, as well as insights from stakeholders and partners. We received initial recommendations, followed by a more detailed report, which we are using to help inform our strategy. 

Based on our experience, I recommend that you find out how an LGA culture or library peer challenge could help to inform your strategic work. 

There are both face-to-face and online opportunities, and the LGA has a real focus on making sure the peer challenges will deliver useful and practical insights.

Find out more about the LGA’s culture and library improvement programme


Wasteful words

Inclusive early years provision