Theatre in Wales

Commentary and extended critical writing on theatre, dance and performance in Wales

The draft report on the restructuring of ACW

An internal Artc Council of Wales documernt on it internal management review

6 April 2000

Review of internal management
1 The Brief

1.1 This paper is the outcome of a meeting of the Strand Four Team on internal management, attended by Clare Thomas (video link), Alyn Coleman, Rhys Parry, Jill Tait, Anne Twine and Suzanne Griffiths-Rees (minutes). The meeting was facilitated by Professor Anthony Everitt.

1.2 The Team's remit was to 'review the staff structure, taking into account the findings of Strand One and the on-going work of Strands two and Three'.

1.3 A briefing note has been prepared by Anne Twine, which members of the Senior Management Team are asked to discuss with their divisions with a view to feeding back opinions to the Team. Individual members of staff are also invited to submit their own responses. A working document (the current paper) has been prepared by Professor Everitt for the Team; it should be understood that its proposals are provisional and incomplete. It is expected that a comprehensive paper will be prepared with the Team's recommendations, which will be issued after its meeting on February 21 to staff and the Chairman's Advisory Group. It will only be posted on the ACW website after internal debate.

2 Underpinning Principles

2.1 Findings of the other three Strand Teams, discussions with staff at various meetings and individual written submissions persuaded the Team to agree the basic principles which should inform proposals for a revised operational structure. They are as follows -

CHANGE: "If we are to be a development agency, our existence is all about change"
CORE VALUES: ACW is about the arts with a 'citizen bias', we must not lose sight of this
MANAGEABILITY: The process and the decisions reached must be manageable, must be possible, must be realistic
FLEXIBLE: ACW must be responsive and 'nimble-footed' - processes and operations
AND ADAPTABLE: must reflect and promote this need
The understanding to RETAIN THE GOOD: This process is not about sweeping everything aside and starting again. Proposals must be based on recognising those things which work well and
should be retained
SIMPLICITY: Proposals for change or revision should be simple, ACW structures should be simple and easy to understand both by those operating them and the outside world.
STREAMLINE/ FLAT STRUCTURES: To some extent this is concerned with simplicity - but also addresses the need to reduce elongated lines of reporting , to increase productivity and to reduce bureaucracy.
DELEGATE: Be deliberate about the appropriate level of decision making - establish clear 'rules' and use existing expertise more efficiently.
OPENNESS: Not only in the structures and processes concerned with decision-making,
TRANSPARENT AND ACCOUNTABLE: in the way the ACW manages staff, resources, external contacts and networks
EVOLUTION NOT REVOLUTION: The Group are concerned to make recommendations for change which unfold, which take account of abilities and which are understood and accepted on a continuing basis.


3 Criteria

3.1 The Team considered the papers prepared by the other three Strand Teams (a) on ACW's remit, (b) on strategic planning and (c) on decentralisation. Should they be accepted by Council, a list of criteria emerged against which a proposed new administrative and committee structure will have to be judged.

3.2 The Remit paper argues that ACW's core role should be to 'enable the citizens of Wales to exercise their right to enjoy their and others' cultures'. It should 'not only promote the arts for their intrinsic value but also for their beneficial social and economic impacts' and 'ensure that artists continue to have freedom of creative expression'.

3.3 ACW should be structured in such a way that it enables to Council to fulfil its role, as set out in the Remit paper. This includes _

open and consultative policy development
the application of artistic expertise
greater investment in research
robust evaluation of ACW's policies and strategy
persuasive advocacy
partnership with other agencies, especially local authorities
prioritisation through the arts development strategy
streamlining the process of grant-giving
3.4 ACW should be structured in such a way that enables to Council to engage in a planning and evaluation process, as proposed in the Arts development Strategy paper. The process includes -

review of previous strategy
needs assessment
establishment of Council priorities
costed and annually timetable five-year 'specialist' and regional actions plans
annual cycle of evaluation and review; one-year operational plans.
3.5 ACW should be structured in such a way that it can implement proposals for decentralisation. The Planning for Decentralisation discussion paper sets out three options -

field workers throughout Wales managed centrally: no regional offices
only Planning and Finance managed centrally; rest of staff distributed to regions which would be responsible for most policy delivery
Planning, Finance and specialist (artform et al) functions to be delivered centrally: devolved budgets for intra-regional arts activity.
4 Specific Issues

4.1 At its first meeting the Strand Team debated the following issues and considered some specific proposals.

4.2 Role of Council. At present Council members say they feel snowed under by routine business, the details of which they have insufficient time to master. They sometime take decisions which they do not 'own'. Their duties are not always clear to them. It is essential that in future Council's tasks are clearly stated and agreed and are manageable.

4.3 If policy development and the delivery of a five-year strategy are to be central to ACW's work, it follows that they should be at the heart of the ACW Council's responsibilities. Specifically, the Council should be responsible for determining ACW's developmental priorities, on the basis of a review of its previous strategy/Corporate Plan; for deciding ACW's overall five-year budgetary projections and annual budgets; and for superintending the monitoring and evaluation of the arts development strategy. Also, Council as a body, the Chairman and members have an important part to play as advocates both of the arts and ACW's work. In this respect, the ACW administration should, through briefing and (where appropriate) training, ensure that Council members are enabled to play a full part in achieving communications and advocacy objectives.

4.4 The Council will find it difficult to fulfil these tasks if it continues to devote much of its time, as at present, to consideration of grant decisions and other operational matters. So it proposed that, so far as is consistent with accountability for the expenditure of public monies, the Council should delegate grant decisions to other committees and the executive.

4.5 As well as its responsibility for strategy, the Council has a general duty of care for ACW as an organisation and its running. The Chief Executive with the Senior Management Team are charged with the day-to-day management of ACW, but should account to the Council on organisational and staffing issues. There may be a case for a Council sub-committee to keep these under review. There should be a direct line to Council on such issues as terms and conditions of employment, remuneration policy and so forth. Consideration should be given to giving Council a role in appropriate cases in the staff appeals procedure.

4.6 Council members are Trustees and as such have certain fiduciary duties. They are also the highest court of appeal for complaints by applicants and clients.

4.7 It is suggested that ACW agree the range of skills and experience that are required of Council members if they are to act effectively and that these are offered to the Minister for ADD for consideration when new appointments are made.

4.8 ACW is a complex body with numerous duties and can be daunting to new members of Council. It is essential that the Chairman and the Senior Management Team arrange comprehensive induction programmes.

4.9 At its full strength Council has XXX members and its meetings are attended by the Senior Management Team and, as appropriate, other staff. This can mean that as many as thirty people can be in attendance. This is a large number of people for a committee with a developmental role which has to decide and superintend the implementation of strategic priorities. It may be appropriate for it to appoint a small Executive or Planning Committee, charged with the processing of business and in particular strategic issues. This committee should be chaired by the ACW Chairman and consideration should be given to recruiting external members as well as members of Council. Consideration should also be given to appointing staff to the committee.

4.10 Committees and Panels. One of ACW's besetting features is the large number of Committees and Panels. As a result, officers spend too much of their time servicing them. Also, matters for decision are frequently discussed and re-discussed as they move from Panel or advisory group to Committee to Council. This repetitive process is laborious and can result in decisions being revised, reversed or sent back for further debate to those who originally considered the matter in hand.

4.11 The question arises how to simplify grant decision-making while maintaining appropriate accountability. First, three-year grants for arts organisations with national status or a nation-wide remit should be determined as part of the arts development strategy planning process (for practical reasons, three-year grants should be 'staggered' throughout the period of the strategy). Secondly, responsibility for intra-regional grants should be devolved to the regions (their decision-making processes will be considered in due course). Thirdly, decisions on grants and schemes should be delegated to officers supported by advisers chosen from an annually agreed list; they would be reported to the executive committee, which would consider in detail any cases which raised policy difficulties or other matters of concern. The financial ceiling for delegated authority should be reviewed upward. Fourthly, panels should be retained, but their task would be policy creation within the Council's strategic priorities and monitoring; they would meet only once or twice year and would perhaps be 'constituency' conferences rather than committees.

4.12 Artform Development, Access Development and National Lottery. In principle, ways should found to amalgamate Arts4All Lottery spending and expenditure by the Arts Development and Access Development divisions. The distinctions between these three areas of ACW work are hard to explain and do not appear to add value to the decision-making process. The assumptions would be that (a) capital spending would continue to be handle by a discrete specialist unit, (b) an audit trail for Lottery expenditure would be maintained and Policy Directions and Statement of Financial Requirements, observed, (c) the Artform Development and Access Development divisions would be abolished and replaced by another administrative structure, and (d) budgets for intraregional arts activity would be made available to the regional offices (although financial management would continue to be handled centrally): regional budgets would be determined on a historical basis, inflected by ACW's arts development strategy priorities.

5 A Reformed Administrative Structure

5.1 ACW's Chief Executive (CEO) should be responsible to the ACW Council for the delivery of the Council's policy objectives, as described in the arts development strategy, and for ACW's operations; and should be ACW's chief spokesperson (in this respect, working in close association with the Chairman). The CEO should also be responsible for relations with arts organisations of national status. In practice, two specific skills will be required of the post-holder - (a) an ability to think strategically and (b) a track-record as a first-rate manager. A love of the arts is essential, but career experience in the arts is not. For specialist expertise the CEO should depend on ACW's arts officers and advisers.

5.2 The CEO should be supported by a Deputy Chief Executive (Deputy CEO), who would be responsible for a Planning Department and for ACW's day-to-day running, and a Director of Finance and Resources. These three officers would form the Senior Management Team (Operations).

5.3 ACW should maintain a full range of arts officers, covering the visual arts and crafts, literature, dance, drama, music and combines arts (including responsibility for artistic development in the new technologies). They would have executive responsibility for most grant decisions (except for revenue grants, large project grants and large capital grants) within the strategic policy framework established by the Council. Because they would be too numerous to report to one line manager, it is proposed that they be divided into three teams - (a) visual arts, (b) performing arts and (c) literature, combined arts and new media. Each team would be led by a Head. ACW should commit itself to a policy of employing arts officers who live in different parts of Wales and can either work from home or from ACW regional offices, implementing it over time as staff vacancies arise.

5.4 It would be possible for the three arts Heads to report directly to the CEO. However, this would run the risk of creating too many line management duties for a post-holder who would also be responsible for the Director of Finance and Resources and the Deputy CEO (Planning) and who, so far as possible, should be free of routine operational duties. Accordingly it is proposed that one of the three arts team Heads should be the senior arts line manager, to whom the other team Heads would report and who, in turn, would report to the CEO. This post (perhaps to be called Senior Arts Adviser in order to make a clear distinction from the post of Arts Director) would mainly be concerned with line management issues, but should also ensure the efficient and orderly running of the arts teams and appropriate coordination and communication among them. The post would only be held for three years and would be rotated among the three arts team Heads (on the model of deans of university departments). Neither the team Heads nor the Senior Arts Adviser would have any responsibility for grant decisions except in her/his own field.

5.5 The Deputy CEO main task, as well as deputising for the CEO, should be to manage the arts development strategy through a Strategic Development Department. The department should consist of three units. The first should bring together Communications and Research, thus demonstrating the importance of evidence not only for policy creation but also for advocacy. It is important to note that this unit will be ineffective unless provided with sufficient financial resources. The second unit would help to ensure that ACW delivered its strategic Priorities: it would be in charge of the planning process, evaluation and the annual review. It would also manage ACW's external training and development programme, which should be designed to help ACW's clients to make an effective contribution to the implementation of the Council's priorities. It is suggested that its staff include senior officers on fixed-term contracts whose job descriptions would be explicitly linked to each of the priorities. They would work with task groups of officers drawn from across the Council.

5.6 Thirdly, three Regional Directors should be appointed to manage ACW's offices in North Wales, Mid and West Wales and South Wales; they would report to the Deputy Chief Executive. In addition to their regional role, it may be feasible to give them the national responsibility to deliver on of the ACW's strategic priorities (in place of the senior officer mentioned in the preceding paragraph). In that case they would report on their priority to the Deputy Director, administratively serviced by the Priorities Unit.

5.7 Each regional office will contain a Capital/Monitoring Officer, to handle small-scale capital grants, as at present; Arts Development Officers, to handle grants for intra-regional revenue clients, individual artists and arts projects, an information and media officer, to develop ACW's advocacy at a regional level, and appropriate administrative support. Office space would be available to ACW specialist staff.

5.8 Finally, while it is right to integrate national spending on arts activity with the rest of ACW's arts expenditure, the same is not true of large-scale capital grants, the assessment and monitoring of which are highly specialist. Capital applications should continue to be handle centrally as at present, through a Capital Unit in the Strategic Development Department.

5.9 The Finance and Resources Department should be divided into five units - Personnel, Accounts, Facilities (buildings and supplies), IT Management and central Administration. So far as the last is concerned, responsibility for many administrative tasks are dispersed throughout the organisation, with consequent inefficiencies and lack of standardisation (it is interesting, in this context, to note that the computerised grants management system, GIFTS, is not universally used more than a year after its introduction). It is recommended that the responsibility for all aspects of administration be centrally managed, including

financial monitoring

internal communications

the production of committee papers (but not their writing)

production of minutes (but not their writing)

the recording of committee/officer financial decisions

register of committee members'/officers' interests

lists of committee members/advisers

translation of documents

training and development policy and programmes for artists and arts organisations.
It should be emphasised that the Administration Unit should provide an efficient and standardised service for ACW staff, but would in no way be responsible for policy or grant decisions.

author:Arts Council of Wales

original source: Arts Council of Wales
19 February 2001

 

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