Making the most of your museums: A handbook for councillors

Published on: July 2nd 2019

During the past few months, Community Leisure UK fed into the recently published Making the most of your museums: A handbook for councillors published by the Local Government Association and Arts Council England.

We very much welcomed the opportunity to share our views on the trust model. The guidance explains the trust model in quite some detail, and presents trusts as a serious option for delivering public culture. We are in regular contact with the Local Government Association and Arts Council England to raise the profile of trusts and to demonstrate their value as an important partner for safeguarding communities’ wellbeing and development. As part of this new guidance, we highlighted the advantages of the trust delivery model, and affirmed trusts’ role in preserving cultural assets while creating access to local culture and history for communities.

It was an honour to feed into the Handbook on behalf of Community Leisure UK and our member trusts. It was a fantastic opportunity to shout loudly and proudly about the great work trusts do and the benefits of the trust delivery model.

Emma Hutchinson, Culture Representative on Community Leisure UK’s Board of Directors

While we welcome the presentation of trusts on an equal level to other public delivery models, we also want to comment on some of the guidance’s misrepresentation of the trust model. In particular, we feel the need to comment on the claimed disadvantage of trusts having “no obligation to respond to local agendas”. Trusts are all charities and non-profit-distributing organisations*, which means that to exists, they need to have a charitable aim and objectives. They are community anchors, committed to being accessible to everyone in their community, and through their work and dedicated programmes contribute to community development. Trusts are therefore bound by their mission to respond to local agendas as considering the needs communicated by communities is part of their founding principles.

A further point made by the guidance is that a “new trust is at great risk of failure without the commitment of ongoing financial support from the council”. This is an unbalanced view and refuted by points made later in the guidance. Trusts are, in fact, well positioned to secure financial investment and funding from different sources – as mentioned in the guidance’s advantages of the trust model. There is, therefore, not a ‘great risk of failure’.

However, financial support from a council does contribute to the trusts’ financial sustainability. We therefore advocate for a continued partnership between the council and the trust. A council can be assured that the trust uses their independence to have an agile response to landscape changes with the best interest of the community at heart. Through their partnership, the financial support for the trust can and should be discussed as it will increase the trust’s effectiveness to deliver valuable services for their community.

I felt it was really important to highlight the benefits of our type of delivery model; safeguarding much loved services for the communities we serve in times of austerity; a reminder of the value for money and return on social investment we offer; the plethora of funding and sponsorship opportunities available to trusts that are not so easily accessed by local authorities or other delivery models; and our ability to flex and change in a timely manner as priorities and demand changes.

Emma Hutchinson, Managing Director of Culture Warrington

*For more information on the trust model, please do read our introductory article here. To learn more about how trusts contribute to local priorities, please read our article on trusts’ impact here.