Saturday, 19 June 2010

The Culture, Tourism and Sport Report

Last year the Independent Group on the Local Government Association appointed me to the position of Deputy Chair of the Culture, Tourism and Sport Board. They obviously recognised my cultured demeanor, sporty physique and failed to notice my lack of air miles. The work covered has been very varied covering everything from the Olympics, to Library Policy to facilities for disabled tourists in our towns and cities. I have participated in all meetings of the Board and will only miss the last one for this cycle due to being on the interview panel for our new Chief Executive as our last one has been moved to Doncaster. I attended and chaired a Seminar session at the LGA’s Culture Tourism and Sport Conference in Newcastle earlier this year and was very impressed with their new library facilities (and not just the impressive solar water heating facility and display. Though it must be said I did ask more questions about it than about the books or the PCs or anything else at all really!).

It has been hugely valuable to come from a smaller Political Party and to have an input into policy formulation at a national level. The delivery of most government policy happens at the local level so the role of the LGA is vital to ensure national government gets an informed ‘reality check’ on policy implementation. As an example Government has proposed reducing administration cost for the National Lottery which on the face of it does appear to be a good idea. However the unintended consequence of this may be to reduce the likelihood of lottery outlets in rural locations (such as is being threatened at Grange Moor) and thereby further reducing the viability of local shops. This was a point I made during the Board meetings which will be fed into LGAs communications with national government.

The Tourism Working Group which I have attended had an item on the agenda regarding ‘Open Britain’ a new guide available on the web for the disabled traveller with information on where to stay, how to get there and what to do when you get there. With about 11 million disabled people in the UK this could be a very valuable resource. Promotional stickers will be available for establishments that are easily accessible for wheelchair users and people with a range of disabilities. It occured to me that certain campaign groups might establish a ‘Closed Britain’ sticker for particularly inaccessible venues!

There has been discussion about the loss of analogue radio for established stations by 2015. There was general agreement that the move to digital was a good idea but concern over the higher energy use associated with the new digital boxes and the impact of millions of analogue radios being effectively useless and being presented to Councils for recycling. It is estimated that there will be around 100 million such radio sets. Shropshire District Council has called on the government to review the decision to use the 2015 date and to address the financial hardship of poorer households who will have to replace their radio sets and the impact of dealing with the disposal of millions of radio sets.

DCMS has conducted a ‘Libraries Modernisation Review’ which LGA has input to. This focussed on Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council where DCMS conducted an inquiry into their proposals to cut 11 or 12 of their current libraries to see if it is consistent with their statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. I did not get the impression that they will be intervening much into any Councils proposals to close libraries. Much of the justification for closures is about the move to mixed use buildings not simply libraries and the increasing use of the internet to access information and entertainment. This does not bode well in the current climate and if Councils decide to go down the line of significant cuts in the Library service to achieve savings then there appears to be very little central government will do in terms of intervention.

So to prove I have some cultural leanings and for your entertainment here's Buffy Saint Marie who is 70, a native american and first woman to breastfeed on Sesame Street singing about environmental destruction. It doesn't get any more 'right on' than this. It was a toss up between this and Holiday in Cambodia by the Dead Kennedys.

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