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Call for pooled cultural services for 'bigger bang'

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New local economic development partnerships must take into account the role that culture and the arts can play in regeneration and should develop functional cultural areas as part of their approach to local economies, a new report has said.

The report, by Regional Cities East, a consortia of cities in East Anglia, said that arts and culture helped regenerate cities like Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle but, with scarce public resources available, new ways of working would now be needed to build on that record and tackle today’s challenges.

The report said councils should consider pooling cultural services teams, boost joint commissioning and develop investment models based not on city boundaries but on functional cultural areas - the real geographic scale at which cultural projects have an impact.

Within these areas, local authorities, Arts Council England and the cultural sector should focus their investment on a small number of key assets, organisations and high impact interventions, the report said, with public money used to lever other sources of investment finance and philanthropy

It said these functional areas for culture should be factored into emerging plans for Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), which are set to replace the regional development agencies.

Neil Darwin, Regional Cities East director, said: “Arts and culture have a central role to play in smaller cities, where a high quality of life and intimate networks help creative industries to thrive. Our research shows how arts and culture is helping to attract inward investment, bring communities together and encourage people to re-engage with the democratic process.

“But we can only sustain these Big Society themes if we all think smarter about value for money. This means joining together to agree shared priorities, even if pet projects need to take a back seat, sharing resources where we can and commissioning in partnership for the good of local people.”

See the full report here.

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