MLA to be abolished by Jeremy Hunt
26.07.10 | Benedicte Page

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has proposed that the Museums, Libraries and Archives council (MLA) be abolished.

The proposal came today as part of a Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) review of public bodies, which will see 55 such bodies merged, abolished or streamlined as part of the government’s cost-cutting drive.

Hunt has proposed abolishing the MLA “to focus efforts on frontline, essential services and ensure greater value for money,” said the DCMS.

“Government support for museums, libraries and archives will continue,” said the DCMS. The UK Film Council is also set to go, while UK Sport is set to be merged with Sport England.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey recently announced a new library support programme, to be led by MLA chief executive Roy Clare and the LGA. A DCMS spokesperson said: “The timing of the MLA wind-down isn’t yet agreed so the library support programme will go ahead as planned.”

In response to the announcement, MLA chair Sir Andrew Motion and chief executive Clare pledged a smooth transition to the new system, saying “stormy seas call for cool heads and steady hands”, particularly in light of the recession and ongoing funding cuts affecting all areas of the body.

In a joint statement, which gave the wind-up date as April 2012, the pair said: “Faced with an unforeseen degree of economic pressure, government has chosen to balance the books and to prioritise the rationalisation of its existing cultural agencies as a contribution.

“As a result we will work methodically and calmly to continue to deliver a vibrant and effective expert service for the public who rightly expect excellent, sustainable museums, libraries and record offices in their local neighbourhoods. Our accent is on strong strategic leadership; access to expert advice which can help people to weather the effects of recession; strong investment programmes; joining up across the network; good links into local government, and provision of resources that demonstrate good practice. We are committed to arguing for these to be reflected clearly in the new arrangements.”

They added: “Many longer term decisions will need to be taken and the outcome in October of the government’s spending review will have a pivotal bearing on the details. It is our firm, joint intention to continue to provide strong and visible national leadership and a consistent, purposeful voice. We are confident that the various important capabilities of the MLA will be found new homes and we are determined to ensure that there continues to be sources of robust advocacy for museums, libraries and archives and for the people and places that depend upon them.”

Motion and Clare noted that the initiative to develop and improve library services would continue and be “delivered by MLA and LGA this autumn, unaffected by the announcement”.

Vaizey added: “Sir Andrew Motion and Roy Clare have shown great leadership of the MLA and have made great strides in the last two years to streamline the organisation, significantly improving efficiency and effectiveness. However, there is now an opportunity to integrate Renaissance and the other important functions of the MLA into the wider cultural framework.”

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