The Arts Council of Wales
With your permission, Presiding Officer, I make a statement to bring the Assembly up to date with events since the arts debate on 1 February. First, on the review of the Arts Council of Wales, Members will recall that the Plenary motion on 1 February committed the Assembly Government to carrying out a Government review of the arts council. We are, of course, complying fully with that Plenary decision. The terms of reference for the review have now been agreed by the Culture, Welsh Language and Sport Committee after constructive discussions among party spokespersons and leaders. The review will be wide-ranging. It will look at the future framework for funding arrangements that support the arts, including the role of the Arts Council of Wales. The review will advise me on the existing and future role of ACW in relation to its funding of the arts. It will include the national arts organisations, the development of the arts in Wales, the development of access and inclusion in the arts, and tackling social inequalities. The future roles of the Arts Council of Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government will be examined, taking account of the need for democratic accountability, transparency and openness, artistic freedom, an environment within which the arts can develop in all parts of Wales, improving access to the arts, which is a key interest of mine, excellence, and the active management and development of arts funding recipients. It is particularly important that the review looks beyond Wales. It will consider levels of arts funding and funding mechanisms in an international context.
The review will report before December, and we will bring a motion to Plenary. The review will be carried out by a panel of five people, appointed by the Government. The panel’s method of working has also been agreed by the Culture, Welsh Language and Sport Committee. The panel will need to review and analyse the evidence base to ensure a sound basis for the development of policy recommendations. It will need to engage with a broad range of individuals and groups across Wales and beyond. The terms of reference are clear on this point, saying that the panel should engage directly with a wide range of arts practitioners and others in the sector. It will also conduct public discussion and thus engage with a wider range of views and opinions. I encourage everyone with an interest in the arts to engage with the panel in this most important work.
I am pleased to be able to announce today that the chair of the review panel will be Elan Closs Stephens. Elan, of course, is well known in public life in Wales. She is Professor of Communications and Creative Industries in the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. She is shortly to retire as the chair of S4C, she is also a member of the National Library of Wales court and council, and she is a board member of Chwarae Teg. As for the other members of the panel, discussions are continuing among the party leaders and spokespersons, and I hope that these will soon be concluded. I will make a further announcement before the Easter recess.
I now turn to the matter of chairing the Arts Council of Wales. I have made it clear that I wanted to run a normal public appointments process, complete with public advertisements and the involvement of committee nominees, but the opposition amendment carried on 1 February makes it difficult to make a full-term appointment. How could a full-term appointment be made when the role of the arts council might be changed after the review? Some Members of the Assembly—and they are doing it this afternoon—are not prepared to wait for the review to do its work. I am not prepared to prejudge that review process. I have, therefore, decided to appoint an interim chair to cover the review period. I intend to complete the full-term appointment as soon as the outcome of the review process is clear. The full-term appointment will, of course, be via the normal process. During the interim period, I want the arts council to get on with business as usual, which involves distributing some £27 million of public money, which is a huge real-terms increase since the Assembly first met.
Council members have important responsibilities. As I explained in committee last week, I have the responsibility to appoint the chair, and the council has the responsibility to appoint a vice-chair. Council members are also trustees of the charity and they have charitable fiduciary responsibilities to take into account. I am pleased, therefore, to announce that Professor Dai Smith will take on the role of interim chair until the process to appoint a full-term chair has been completed. Dai Smith has been a member of the arts council since 2004. As the holder of the Raymond Williams research chair in cultural history at the University of Wales Swansea, Professor Smith has a distinguished academic and public service career, and is well suited to carrying out this role. His leadership of the Library of Wales project has attracted much favourable comment.
The review of the arts council provides an excellent opportunity for everyone with a genuine interest in the arts and culture to contribute to the debate. I hope that the review will be enlightening and insightful, and will fulfil the expectations that we all have in the Chamber for the best interests of the arts in Wales.