Commissioning services in the changing structure of local authorities

Commissioning services in the changing structure of local authorities

By Paul Kelly
Rick Bond


In the face of an increasing trend towards commissioning services from bodies outside of local authorities, this ‘Outside In’ report gives advice to local authority arts officers on how to manage the process of ‘contracting out’ strategic commissioning of services. It includes an exploration of benefits and issues from interviews with arts officers working within a contracted out environment; an explanation of what strategic commissioning is and the opportunities it offers; and technical and legal issues that leisure and cultural management teams need to consider when approaching contracting out.

External delivery models

The organisations surveyed fall into three distinct types;

• Model 1: Independent organisations delivering solely arts services in one or more local authority areas.

• Model 2: Leisure trusts delivering a wide range of cultural services in one or more local authority areas.

• Model 3: A commercial company delivering a range of leisure services to a local authority specification and contract.

In addition the consultants have been in contact with two adjacent local authorities who currently have a joint arts plan and who have had some initial discussions about a closer and more formal arrangement which could even lead to merging the two services. A development of this sort could become a fourth delivery model.


Model 1 - Independent Arts Trusts

This model dates from the early 1990s and seems to be the result of the then Regional Arts Association/Boards’ desire to encourage local authority arts provision. In each of the two cases surveyed, local authorities in adjacent areas to the Independent Arts Trusts (IATs) employed arts officers and delivered the services ‘in house’. For reasons that are possibly down to geography, limited cultural infrastructure, and other factors that are probably now lost in the mists of time, in the areas without local authority arts provision, an IAT was preferred to local authority provision. Model 1 seems to have quite a lot in common with a Regularly Funded Organisation (RFO) that is a multi-arts ‘agency’. The difference is that the IAT’s main source of income is the local authority and it is delivering to a predominantly local authority brief.

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Resource type: Research | Published: 2013