30 April 2002 Strategic Advisory Structure for Museums, Libraries, and Archives in Wales

30 April 2002

The Minister for Culture, Sport and the Welsh Language (Jenny Randerson):

This is a statement on my consultation paper, ‘A Strategic and Advisory Structure for Museums, Libraries and Archives in Wales’, which I am launching today. It marks the beginning of an extremely important process to find the best arrangements for determining and disseminating policy and strategic direction for the more than 500 museums, libraries and archive services throughout Wales. My aim is to bring about long-term solutions and opportunities that will result in improved services to users..Museums, libraries and archives play a central role in the cultural and educational life of Wales. We have already implemented changes, such as providing increased funding for ICT facilities at local level and the introduction of public library standards.
In the past, there were several organisations in representative and policy-making roles, some of which covered England only, and others covered the UK as a whole for part or all of their activities. In the last two years these have been replaced with Resource: The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries. Resource is sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. It has a varying remit, similar to that of its predecessor bodies. Although its board includes a Welsh representative, much of its activity applies to England only.
I have agreed a draft concordat between Resource and the Welsh Assembly Government, which is available on the Assembly website. It identifies common objectives and establishes key operational principles. However, the concordat has not been ratified by the Resource board, and it will need to be amended in the light of any structure established as a result of this consultation exercise. I have decided to review the strategic and advisory arrangements in Wales against this background, in partnership with local authorities, and with the wide variety of organisations in the sector. I also welcome the views of the Culture Committee.
It do not intend to alter the arrangements that exist between the Assembly Government and the Executive Assembly sponsored public bodies in the sector, namely the National Museums and Galleries of Wales and the National Library of Wales. However, it is essential for any future structure to retain the vital links with these two important national institutions.
The consultation paper has been prepared in discussion with the members of my advisory group on Resource, acting in their individual capacity, and I am grateful to all of them. They include the chairs or directors of all sector organisations funded by the Welsh Assembly Government, and a representative from the Welsh Local Government Association.
The Assembly Government funds the Council of Museums in Wales, which works with non-national museums. It has 10 staff. The Assembly sponsored public body—the Library and Information Services Council (Wales)—advises me on libraries. We provide LISC with a part-time secretary, but it has no other staff. No organisation for archives is funded or sponsored by the Welsh Assembly Government. I take this opportunity to thank the Council of Museums and LISC for the excellent work that they do.However, I am aware that concern has been expressed about the existing structures in Wales, in particular that most of them are fragile and lack in continuity, and that they do not have sufficient staff and resources to carry through the policy initiatives that would produce improvements in services to users.
I believe that a new strategic and advisory structure must be keenly aware of users’ needs; have sufficient staff and other resources to enable it to perform its duties effectively and efficiently; gain the respect and confidence of the sector; and achieve results and implement its strategy swiftly. It should also be able to provide me with authoritative policy advice; advise and support museums, libraries and archives; and identify and implement policies appropriate for Wales.The consultation paper sets out three options for the future. The first option is to have no structural change, and for Resource to continue taking forward many areas of work on a UK basis. As now, I would set an overall policy framework, and provide funding for the Council of Museums in Wales and LISC. The second option would establish a new Resource for Wales, located within the Welsh Assembly Government. It would incorporate the functions of the Council of Museums that are paid for by the Assembly Government, the functions of LISC, and cover the whole sector, including archives. It would be independent of Resource, but it would seek to call on Resource’s expertise, where appropriate. It would develop or adapt policies for Wales, and it would be appropriately staffed with experts from the sector. The third option is the same as the second, but with an advisory council of approximately 10 members, which I would chair. This council would provide formal input into the policy process from outside the Assembly Government. The implementation of either of the last two options would depend on resources for staff, grants and project funding being made available in the budget planning round.The consultation paper raises a number of issues, including, whether or not the museums, libraries and archives domains would be better served by a single body; which of the options should be pursued; and whether or not there are other options that respondents think should be considered. The paper will be widely circulated to those with an interest in museums, libraries and archives in Wales. It will also be placed on the Assembly website and copies will be available in the Library. Responses are required by 28 June
9:55 a.m.
I want the sector to be able to contribute fully to the vision that I set out in my cultural strategy, ‘Creative Future: Cymru Greadigol’, to contribute to our cultural and educational life, and to promote and strengthen Welsh identity. Museums, libraries and archives, located in the heart of our communities, are in an excellent position to take forward the Welsh Assembly Government’s lifelong learning and social inclusion initiatives, and to ensure that culture plays an important part in developing and regenerating the communities in which we live.

 

Alison Halford:

 Minister, you are aware that I have communicated with you, and you may know that I have also communicated with the director of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, on establishing an art gallery in north Wales. You will be aware of, and have commented on, the main reason for needing one, namely the return of the Mold gold cape to its rightful place. This is a live issue in my constituency and some of your comments have heightened aspirations that the cape will be returned. Will you comment on any further progress on this?

Jenny Randerson:

I cannot comment on progress, but if we had a body such as the one that is proposed under options 2 and 3 of this paper, you would be able to strategically consider providing facilities in those parts of Wales that lack such facilities. It should provide an all-Wales view of things. The issue of the Mold gold cape comes down to the fact that you would need improved security, regulated temperatures in museums and so on. That is the type of facility that you would consider strategically as a result of this proposed reorganisation.

 


 

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