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The Consultation on a Strategic and Advisory Structure for Museums, Libraries and Archives in Wales

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Jenny Randerson, Minister for Culture, Sport & the Welsh Language

This is a statement about 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: that is 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 which 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 a number of organisations in representative and policy making roles, some of which covered England only; 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.  There is a Welsh representative on the Resource Board, but much of its activity applies to England only.

I have agreed a draft concordat between Resource and the Welsh Assembly Government and this is on the Assembly website.  It identifies common objectives and establishes key operational principles.  However, the concordat has yet to be ratified by the Resource Board; and it will also need to be amended in the light of any structure established as a result of this consultation exercise.

Against this background, I have decided to review the strategic and advisory arrangements in Wales in partnership with local authorities and with the wide variety of organisations in the sector. I shall also welcome the views of the Culture Committee.

It is not my intention to change the arrangements which exist between the Assembly Government and the executive Assembly Sponsored Public Bodies in the sector, namely the National Museums & Galleries of Wales and the National Library of Wales.  However, it will be essential that any future structure retains 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.  I am extremely grateful to all of them.  They include the Chair or Director of all the sector organisations funded by the Welsh Assembly Government, as well as 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 ten staff.  And my advisory Assembly Sponsored Public Body the Library and Information Services Council (Wales), called LISC, advises me on libraries.  We provide a part-time Secretary to LISC, but it has no other staff.  There is no organisation for archives funded or sponsored by the Welsh Assembly Government.

I would like to 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 are fragile, lacking in continuity and deficient in terms of the numbers of staff and resources necessary to carry through policy initiatives which would produce improvements in services to users.

In my view any structure would in particular need to:

  • be keenly aware of the needs of users;
  • 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 be able to:

  •  provide me with authoritative policy advice;
  • give advice and support to museums, libraries and archives; and
  • identify and implement policies appropriate for Wales.

The consultation paper sets out three options for the future.  

  • Option 1 is No Structural Change, whereby Resource would continue to take forward many areas of work on a UK basis; and, as now, I would set an overall policy framework and provide funding for the Council of Museums in Wales and for LISC.  
  • Option 2 would establish a new structure in the form of A Resource for Wales located within the Welsh Assembly Government.  It would incorporate those functions of the Council of Museums which 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 the unit would be appropriately staffed with experts from the sector.
  • Option 3  is the same as Option 2 plus an Advisory Council  of around ten 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 asks a number of questions.  These include:

  • whether the museums, libraries and archives domains would be better served by a single body;
  • which of the options should be pursued; and
  • whether there are other options which 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.

I want the sector to be able to contribute fully to the vision which 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 lifelong learning and social inclusion initiatives of the Welsh Assembly Government; and to ensure that culture plays an important part in the development and regeneration of the communities in which we live.