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B – Working in Local Government

 B.1 Induction

Induction is an ongoing process, and will last from the recruitment interview to long into your local government career!  You may find this good companion guide useful reading before the induction interview and perhaps to return to it, during the first months of your new job.

A recent survey into training needs of Arts Officers in local authorities indicated that 46% of all officers surveyed had not undergone any form of induction programme on starting their jobs. A full and comprehensive guide to the induction process is available at:, which contains valuable information for your line manager, so it may be worth going through that guide together.

There are a number of topics that you should expect to cover during the induction process:

  • Geography of work area, toilets, refreshment areas
  • The nature of the post
  • Key tasks and areas of responsibility
  • The nature of the Authority
  • The nature of the arts/cultural sector
  • Key contacts (and written contact &telephone list)
  • The nature of the section/department
  • Policies, Policy statements, strategies and action plans
  • Health & Safety issues; emergency evacuation, any special requirements and procedures
  • Customer service and equal opportunities procedures and practices
  • Lines of communication inside and out of the immediate organisation
  • Key people
  • Direct service responsibilities, development issues and action programmes
  • Geographical orientation and information about catchment area
  • Budgets and financial accountability, financial regulations etc.
  • Sources of information and support
  • Training needs
  • Personal/domestic needs, personnel issues (holidays/sickness/grievance/disciplinary procedures etc.)
  • Administrative details (ordering procedures, inventories, filing systems, typing and paper related procedures and layouts, etc.)
  • Environmental issues (recycling policies, energy efficiency etc.)
  • Consultation procedures, etc.
  • Monitoring & evaluation and performance management procedures
  • Committee processes, timescales of meetings, protocols for liaising with members, the political framework,
  • Marketing and promotion procedures (if appropriate)
  • Media and press contact

Don’t expect all this to take place over just one interview on the first day of your new job. It might be better to address this over a long time-scale, which will need monitoring. Arts Development UK recommends the following:

  • Pre-induction: reading matter; information packs on service and catchment area. Perhaps a post-interview visit and familiarisation meeting.
  • First Day. Ensure a new employee has enough time with the full attention of the manager. Meeting with key people, “the tour” of the work place, emergency procedures, and if possible programme a team meeting.
  • First week. Additional documentation (policy, service documents, action programmes, service priorities, departmental procedures) geographical familiarisation, further meetings with key staff, accounts and administrative systems, in-depth briefings from close colleagues.
  • First Month. Visits to other sections and associated services/departments. The political framework, experience of a committee and committee reporting and how you should liaise with your Cabinet Member (if appropriate) . The policy framework. Planned review meeting with manager, identification of training needs and areas of potential development. Establishment of personal plans for next twelve months.
  • First year. Regular review meetings with colleagues, line manager and if possible, mentor, and give full support throughout this period. And remember to programme time for this.

B.2 The responsibilities of local government: County, Unitary, District/Borough and Parish councils.

Most council services are the primary responsibility of one tier of government; Districts and Boroughs do refuse collection, while Counties do education and roads, for example. Unitaries, by definition, do it all.

Cultural programmes do not operate so simply…..

The arts will normally operate at 3 levels: regionally, where the Arts Council regional office is the main focus, at the County where an arts team will take a view on County-wide arts programmes (for example, in creative industry development or in touring schemes) or for a Unitary Council, urban regeneration issues. At District level, the arts will deliver local priorities; many participatory arts projects are organised within the geographic boundaries of a Borough or District. Even small parishes may have a role to play in this spiders’ web of partnerships – parish councils are often rural arts promoters, for example.

Bolsover Festival photograph by Alan Fletcher

Bolsover Festival. Image: Alan Fletcher

B.3 How Cabinet Government works and the role of the Portfolio holder

A cabinet is the decision-making group of senior elected members; each will take responsibility for different “portfolios”.  You should find out who your Portfolio holder (or Cabinet Member) is, with responsibility for the arts. You may find it useful to invite them to events, and to keep them involved, but do work through your line manager who will deal with the Portfolio holder on a regular basis. The Portfolio holder is the champion of your service, but remember that a portfolio holder will have responsibility for a host of broad strands, of which the arts is just one.

A Cabinet usually consists of 7 or 8 members, and portfolio titles will vary in different authorities. At County and Unitary level, the portfoilos might include for instance Adult Social Services, Children’s and Adults Education, Social Services, Libraries, Economy, Environment/Highways, Culture/Leisure or Community (often the home to the arts portfolio), IT/Finance and Community Safety. “Top Tier” authorities are also taking on responsibilities for Health soon. At District or Borough there will be a Planning, Housing, Finance, Communications, Leisure, Well Being and other portfolios. Your work as an Arts Officer may be primarily accountable to the Leisure or Culture portfolio, but your work may be in partnership with other officers, and therefore impact on other portfolios.

A Portfolio holder will act as champion in the annual budget round, and for bids that may come forward from senior officers, so their role is crucial to yours. Funding for budgets are often considered in terms of how the programme (such as the arts programme) meets the principal priorities of the Council, such as youth engagement; you should research what these are. Having some other investment into your programme also counts well in persuading your Council to invest, and may help the Portfolio holder argue the case.

B.4 The role of an elected member

Once elected at a local government election or by-election, a member (at any level) is there to help the people of the area he or she represents, by assisting with problems and guiding them through the local council process. Their role is also to ensure Council policies are carried out equally and fairly throughout the area. As a result, access issues are important to members, who want to know that your programmes are of benefit to, or could be reached by, all parts of the community.

B.5 Why the arts are important in Council delivery

The arts are not a legal requirement, and there is no directive that ensures Councils include it in their services. Other services will have more weight inside the Council. However, the ability of the arts, (and other cultural services) to operate across services (ie be cross-cutting) and meet the targets of your Council’s plans is an important strength – see B.6 for some examples of this.
Its also worth remembering what’s unique about arts work, that will help your case:
  • Your arts work impacts directly on local people. Local people often shape the work
  • Councils believe a quality of life is important to local people – your work contributes to that
  • The arts creates an emotional response – its what makes us human
  • Generally speaking, small budgets but high impact
  • Arts services are good at levering additional finance to support services.
    A national study in 2011 by Arts Development UK concluded that for every £1 spent on arts, an additional £6.32 is raised in leverage
  • The arts impacts on important local agendas and crosscutting agendas regionally and nationally (health, young people, education, public order, regeneration, transportation, the environment, tourism & visitor perception, and so on) – it makes people feel good about their area and improves the quality of life for communities
  • The arts are often delivered in partnership with other agencies
  • The arts offer opportunities for people to make choices
  • The arts can help put over a message about Council priorities – green issues, for example
  • There is an economic impact of cultural industries, which is a growing ecconomic sector nationally
  • There is a high social impact of arts and culture (ref. R. Florida & R. Puttran)
Bodies in Flight

Image courtesy of Bodies in Flight

B.6 Working across departments

As will be clear from the previous section, working in partnership is crucial to the development of arts work locally. Your work is well placed to do this, because the arts are often referred to as one of the “crosscutting” strands of local authority delivery. This means the different events that you set up as artistic may also be about skills development, town centre renewal, regeneration, green issues, youth engagement and so on. This is good practice on a number of levels – it encourages partnership, brings money into the arts, and delivers different agendas.
 This approach can result in some excellent and sustainable practice:

B.6.1 Town Centre Management:

An independent Town Centre Management group in Stamford, Lincs wanted to develop public art as part of the enhancement of the town. Working with the local authority arts officers, they were able to access supplementary funds from ACE, and the European Union, to develop a range of water creations, paving, sculpture and contemporary furniture, providing employment for County artists, and creating a unique and original centre to their market town. Contact:

B.6.2 Recycling Services

 A project between the Waste Management, Recycling and Leisure Development Officers to find an innovative way of imparting information to members of the public about the recycling services of the Council.  This resulted in a free summer-long programme focusing on the environment and recycling issues entitled ‘Seaside Resorts Littered with Artists’ . Professional street performers and theatrical organizations were commissioned to perform a range of live theatre addressing issues of litter and re-cycling in seaside locations in Teignbridge, South Devon. One of the Council’s corporate objectives is “to work towards litter-free streets and public spaces through education, enforcement and investment in these services”
Experienced theatre companies – Big Rory and Co, Desperate Men, Forkbeard Fantasy and Dot Comedy produced a range of performances in response to the brief. Their acts took place in a variety of locations over the Summer period of 2005 and were witnessed by thousands of people. A separate group of artists, TRAIL, also worked in the resorts to develop a complementary project resulting in an outdoor exhibition of recycled sculptured artwork.

B.6.3 Arts and Health

Arts Action York – the community arts team within City of York Council – supported the local NHS Trust to initiate a hospital arts scheme in York District Hospital.
This involved supporting the ‘Arts and Environment’ steering group at the hospital to develop an arts strategy, draw up a job description and recruit and interview /appoint an arts officer. The team are continuing to help develop the project with joint funding bids (e.g. Welcome Trust) and the establishment of a second post dedicated to creative activities on the renal units. Contact:

As part of the impact of cultural activity in the Leicestershire Local Area Agreement, the Leicestershire Education and Community Services departments will work with the four Primary Care Trusts to undertake a two year research study involving artists and arts organisations in the Healthy Schools Initiative. This initiative will explore new and innovative ways of promoting positive approaches to healthy living by artists and arts organisations. A number of other crosscutting projects also deliver the Leicestershire LAA. Contact:

Willow artist Laura Ellen Bacon. Image: Alan Fletcher

Willow artist Laura Ellen Bacon. Image: Alan Fletcher

B.6.4 Neighbourhood Renewal
For ‘York Pride’ – a neighbourhood renewal initiative – the community arts team coordinated a public art project in collaboration with the local street environmental officer in the Acomb area; community groups and businesses were involved in a consultation and the creation of a pavement installation in a newly re-landscaped area by the main shopping centre. Children and young people made clay tiles showing their ideas about Acomb – these were cast in aluminium and permanently set into the pavement, providing a local landmark and prompting one young boy to announce that he would bring his grandchildren to see his tile when he grows old! Contact:

Jazz Mouse - Spark Children's Festival. Image: Alan Fletcher

Jazz Mouse – Spark Children’s Festival. Image: Alan Fletcher

B.7 The role of statutory and non-statutory services

Councils have a legal obligation to provide certain services – ensuring the safety of children and vulnerable adults for example. The arts do not have that status, i.e. they are a non-statutory service. The statutory services will be given priority when public funds are limited – the arts are often perceived to be in the “nice to do” category, rather than the “need to do”. See the why your work is important section.

B.8 Accountability of budgets – how they are set and monitored

Councils provide about £83billion worth of services in the 2005/6 year, and about 25% of that will be raised locally though business and council tax. The rest will come from Central Government. This means that Councils are limited in how much money they can raise to support services like yours, and are dependent on the popular vote.

Council budgets are agreed well in advance of each financial year, and you will be able to plan some years ahead, in discussion with your line-manager, who will know what forward projections are in place for the department you work in. Departmental budgets are agreed with the Portfolio holder who will argue that the work your department does in crucial in meeting Council aims; the officer who heads the department will allocate funds between the different services. He or she will need to show how those funds have been used at the end of the year, and overall the department has operated within budget. The Head of your Service will look to you for accurate information.

It is important that you keep control over your funds, and think ahead. Remember that you will have planned for projects later in the year, and may need to keep reserves available. The arts do not tend to expend funds on a regular monthly basis, as some departments will; your expenditure will be defined by the progress of the projects you choose to support.

Your authority may have Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with arts clients, which are agreements to fund the organisation over an agreed number of years (as long as funds are available). They will have details of the broad range of activities, for which your authority is providing funds, and may detail specific targets for the use of the authority’s funds. These may be written in collaboration with the regional ACE office, and with other Local Authorities, if they are contributing partners in the SLA. These are subject to an annual review with all partners, and you may be representing your Authority at those meetings.

Council budget teams will provide your Department Head with up-to-date information, although in practice this may be some months behind your programmes. You may need to explain variations between your plans and centrally produced records.

B.9 External fundraising sources

You may also find that internal e-newsletters are distributed in your authority, which relate to external funding sources, such as new opportunities from Government, trust, European or other sources. It is worth signing up for these, as it’s a lot quicker than having to do your own research all the time! A good place to start is to subscribe to You will also find a consierable amount of funding information with this site under our Resources area (but please note that this is restricted to members of Arts Development UK).

Buxon Festival

Buxon Festival

Lastly, there are a number of ways to address raising additional funds, external to local authorities. For example:

1. Private sector
Local businesses can support local arts projects, but will plan their sponsorship commitments some way ahead, and may not have large funds to commit. You could discuss this with your regional office of Arts and Business, before starting a campaign.

2. Artform support agencies
There are agencies whose role is to develop participation in some artforms – for a music project, for example, you may be within the scope of a Youth Music region, or linked to your regional Orchestral Board subscription if you have one.

Arts Council England runs a single grants programme called Grants for the Arts, which is explained on the site. This is a competitive system, and you will need to show how your project meets the scheme’s priorities. You should discuss with an ACE officer before applying (see chapter 3). However, the Arts Council is keen to work in partnership with local councils, in ways that meet local needs, through arts programmes.

4. Private trusts
Some trusts are open to constituted community groups only, some only to registered charities. If you are researching this area, check carefully whether your project meets trust aims and priorities, and the timescale for decision-making.

5. Regeneration funds
This may include a range of rural and urban initiatives which may be appropriate to arts projects – they may be focused on improving services in health, skills, environment, employability, or other Government, regional or European priorities, but innovative arts programmes often meet these, in partnership with local agencies.

Many local authorities circulate information on external regeneration funding opportunities, which may be available through Government schemes, or through the EU. There may be officers in the authority with experience of accessing these, and you should discuss your programme with them and your line manager, before proceeding.

6. National Lottery
National Lottery good causes include:

  • Arts– see above
  • Sport: Will support dance projects
  • Heritage (via the Heritage Lottery Fund as distinct from English Heritage)
  • BIG Lottery Fund (that has inherited the briefs of both the Community Fund and New Opportunities Fund, which merged with the Millennium fund into the largest of all the Lottery funds).
  • NESTA – the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, is
    working to increase the UK’s capacity for innovation

In addition, Awards for All is a joint Lottery programme that helps small community groups and organisations. It is supports educational, environmental and health projects (but not arts specific applications). Awards for All is administered by the Big Lottery Fund.

Grants available from these funds range from under £500 to over £1 million. The complexity of application processes and evidence required varies according to the individual fund and the amount of money applied for. Similarly the turnaround on funding decisions can range from six weeks to nearly as many years depending on the complexity of the project.

A level of match or partnership funding, between 10–50%, will be required in almost every case when applying to the above funds.

Conditions and criteria for funding obviously vary between the distributors but most can be found, together with application forms to download or complete online at the respective websites of each funder.

As always a telephone conversation with a relevant officer and a minimum amount of research into conditions and criteria is advisable before putting pen to paper.

The Heritage Lottery Fund ( allocates both capital (buildings and equipment) and activity/programme funding for projects that help it to achieve its aims, which are to encourage people to participate in and learn about their culture and to conserve and enhance the UK’s heritage.

In this instance the word heritage is applied to many different things that have been and can be passed from one generation to another. These include the countryside, parks and gardens, industrial and maritime sites, historic records (like photographs, diaries and reminiscences) and cultural and local traditions.

Big Lottery Fund
Launched in 2004, Big Lottery ( combines the functions of the New Opportunities and Community Funds together with the funding of large-scale regeneration projects, previously the responsibility of the Millennium Commission. This means it will be the most appropriate fund for projects originating from the charitable, voluntary, health, education and regeneration sectors. As such Big Lottery controls 50% of total lottery proceeds allocated to good causes, which equates to an anticipated £600-700 million a year.

Priorities will continue to focus on improving the quality of life for disadvantaged groups with programmes likely to address the needs of young people, voluntary and community groups, regeneration projects, green spaces and health.

Awards for All
Awards for All ( is the simplest and, possibly, the most versatile of all the lottery funding programmes, but please note that this programme no longer supports arts and heritage specific applications. The application procedure is easy with a simple to fill in form available on line and a maximum turnaround of eight weeks on all decisions.

The programme is aimed at and is open to local community projects that promote education, the environment and health in the local community.
Awards for All has a ceiling of £10,000. Strictly speaking no match funding has ever been a requirement for a successful application but it always helps to show the commitment of the community to the project if there is an element of own funds included, no matter how small.
Applications for grants under £2 million are made at regional level.