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Arts Council England assumes museums and libraries functions

09 December 2010

Arts Council England today (Thursday 9 December) announced that it has agreed to take over a number of the functions relating to museums and libraries, following the abolition of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).

The Department for Culture,  Media and Sport (DCMS) asked the Arts Council to propose how it would incorporate important responsibilities for regional museums and libraries into its work with the arts, to create a more coherent cultural offer that benefits the cultural sector and the audiences it serves.

The principle responsibilities assumed by the Arts Council are:

  • The Renaissance in the Regions programme for regional museums, including completing the re-design of its content and operation
  • Regional museums improvement and development agenda,  including the Accreditation Standard and the Designation Scheme and projects relating to the 2012 Cultural Olympiad
  • Libraries improvement and development agenda,
  • Cultural property functions including, for example, export licensing, Government Indemnity, acceptance in lieu and security advice

There is no national body responsible for running libraries or regional museums. This responsibility is largely devolved to local authorities. Arts Council England will not be taking on the MLA’s strategic archive functions.

Arts Council England has been allocated a budget of around £46 million a year by DCMS to deliver these additional functions. The Renaissance in the Regions programme has been cut by 15 per cent to £43.4 million, in line with the overall cut to the museums sector made in the government’s recent spending review.

The limited resources available for the rest of the work mean that the Arts Council will have to do a very focused job.

Arts Council England Chair Dame Liz Forgan, said:

“In taking on these important responsibilities, we recognise the excellent work already done by the MLA, and we are pleased by the confidence Ministers have demonstrated in us by giving us this crucial work to take forward.

“This is a unique opportunity to join together the historic and the contemporary; to do away with the artificial divide caused by different funding streams and create a more coherent cultural offer. We want everyone in this country to have the opportunity to discover art, culture, history and science through a rich and varied network of local museums, arts organisations and libraries.”

Detailed discussions are now underway between the Arts Council, MLA and DCMS to manage the transfer of responsibilities and to quickly determine the criteria for the new Renaissance Programme and the basis on which grants can be made for 2011/12 to organisations funded by the MLA.

Sir Andrew Motion, Chair of the MLA, said: “We have long advocated that where ever possible public money should be directed to the front line, especially in such financially hard times.  The MLA will work very closely with the Arts Council to help ensure a smooth transition of these important functions, confident that partnership and co-operation will deliver a strong and cohesive arrangement on behalf of the public who need good museum, library and other cultural services.”

2011/12 will be a year of transition, with the transfer of functions from MLA to the Arts Council completed in 2011 so the MLA can close down by March 2012.

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Notes to editors

For more information, contact Louise Wylie on 020 7973 5528 or 07912 998 955, or 

Arts Council England
works to get great art to everyone by championing, developing and investing in artistic experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of artistic activities from theatre to music, literature to dance, photography to digital art, and carnival to crafts. Great art inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves, and the world around us. In short, it makes life better.  Between 2008 and 2011, we will invest £1.3 billion of public money from government and a further £0.3 billion from the National Lottery to create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

Museums Libraries and Archives Council:

For more information on MLA functions, contact John Harrison, Head of Communications, MLA  0207 273 1402 or visit:

  • The Cultural Property functions, including Export Licensing and Acceptance in Lieu (acquiring important items for the nation in lieu of inheritance tax).

The MLA’s 2012 work is centred on the flagship Stories of the World museum programme