Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and UK Film Council issue responses to government proposals

By Ben Miller | 26 July 2010
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Museums, Libraries and Archives Council chair Sir Andrew Motion's (above) "dark day" prediction seems scheduled for April 2012. Image: Stuart Leech

The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council has pledged "strong and visible national leadership" after the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, announced plans to abolish it within two years.

In a statement claiming the governing body would be "wound up" by April 2012, MLA Chair Sir Andrew Motion and Chief Executive Roy Clare said they would respond to "stormy seas" with "cool heads and steady hands."

Their words echoed Motion's pessimistic outlook at the launch of Museumaker last month. "We know what's going to happen tomorrow, we know what's going to happen through the next few years," he warned, speaking of "the last day of paradise before the dark day."

A photo of a man in a suit speaking into a microphone

Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt aims to abolish the MLA by April 2012. Image: James Firth of Dalton Firth Limited, © Dalton Firth Limited

Issuing his Review of Arm's Length Bodies, Hunt said the move would "increase the transparency and accountability of its public bodies".

"In light of the current financial situation it is the right time to look again at the role, size and scope of these organisations," he argued.

"The changes I have proposed today would help us deliver fantastic culture, media and sport, while ensuring value for money for the public."

The MLA promised to continue with a planned library improvement scheme this autumn alongside existing projects including the Acceptance in Lieu philanthropic loophole and the Accreditation award given to leading venues.

A photo of a group of female footballers celebrating a goal

The UK Film Council has been responsible for box office hits such as Bend it Like Beckham

"Over the year or so ahead our focus is on continuing to boost the impact and potential of museums, libraries and archives in locations across the country," continued the statement.

"It is our firm, joint intention to continue to provide strong and visible national leadership and a consistent, purposeful voice."

Earlier this year the MLA published a report, Sharper Investment for Changing Times, speculating that 75% of the £2 billion spend on cultural services in England was decided by local government authorities.

Their response was decidedly more measured than the backlash against the dual proposal to axe the UK Film Council.

A photo of a man with facial hair

Museums Association Director Mark Taylor will be discussing the proposals with Ed Vaizey. Image: museumsassociation .org

"Abolishing the most successful film support organisation the UK has ever had is a bad decision, imposed without any consultation or evaluation," said UKFC Chair Tim Bevan, drawing on a roster of films including Bend it Like Beckham and The Last King of Scotland to support his case.

"People will rightly look back on today's announcement and say it was a big mistake, driven by short-term thinking and political expediency. British film, which is one of the UK's more successful growth industries, deserves better.

"Our immediate priority is to press the government to confirm that the funding levels and core functions needed to underpin British film are locked-in, especially at a time when filmmakers and film companies need more support than ever.

"We will work with the DCMS over the summer to identify how they can guarantee both continuity and safe harbour for British film."

Answering questions in the House of Commons this afternoon, Hunt dismissed assumptions that the cuts were a foregone conclusion.

"We haven't announced the decision – we are considering doing this," he admitted, inviting the public to make their views known.

"The UK Film Council spends £3 million per annum on admin. We want to ask whether that money could be better spent to support filmmakers."

Mark Taylor, the Museums Association director, said he would be meeting Ed Vaizey, the Minister for Culture, to discuss the proposals on Tuesday (July 27 2010).

"It is important that we have a strategic body with museums as one of its principal functions, rather than a minor department in another quango," he added.

"We need to know before the Comprehensive Spending Review [expected to be held in October 2010] where the strategic museum function is going to be within the DCMS.

"The challenge now is to retain as much as possible from the good that the MLA does and make sure that museums have their rightful place in the DCMS structure."

The Film Council employs around 75 staff, with current projects including the world's first Digital Screen Network and support for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the BFI Film Festival.

Box Office takings from UK films have risen by 62% since it was founded in 2000, earning a record £944 million last year.

The Birmingham-based MLA currently employs 123 people.

Supporters have launched a petition to save the UK Film Council. Read it here.

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