The single cultural conversation – making a difference locally

The Local Government Association (LGA) and Arts Council England (ACE), through the single cultural conversation framework have committed to working together so that there can be a joint understanding of shared priorities, key issues and investment.

Local conversations between ACE and local authorities focusing upon the cultural offer will inform the single conversation at national level between ACE and the LGA and as national policy develops, this will inform the delivery of culture at the local level.

The library service Universal Health Offer is an example of how this joined up conversation can make a real difference and generate real improvement at both a national and local level.

The Universal Health Offer builds upon the generic library assets which include a network of local hubs offering non-clinical community space, public health information and promotion, signposting and referrals and creative and social reading activities.

There are 6 million people in the UK currently suffering from anxiety and depression and 2/3 of these people are not receiving treatment and are looking for quality health information.

As part of the offer the new Books on Prescription scheme for England will be delivered through all public libraries in partnership with key national stakeholders, and will be complimented by mood boosting collections.  Thus providing a quality assured national reading list, supporting creative reading and also encouraging local links to reading/social activity.

Funded by an ACE Libraries Development Initiative grant of 20k the development of the health offer and Books on Prescription has been a national partnership that will enable libraries to articulate their role in supporting the new public health responsibilities of local authorities as part of the commissioning landscape.

The Health Offer is a national strategy that can be delivered and tailored locally.  It positions libraries as strategic health and well-being delivery partners.

As such it is a really good example of how a single conversation nationally can result in an overarching strategy and product which can be delivered locally.

Another example is the development within my own authority, Staffordshire, of the ‘Prosperity Wheel’. This is about taking a holistic view to prosperity and a strong cultural offer is a vital component.

As both the professional and political leadership of the County Council worked up the prosperity wheel it has resulted in much greater appreciation within the local authority of how culture can deliver / impact upon other service areas priorities.

So for example:

  • All of our libraries are now Wifi enabled.
  • They are all Start2 centres where job clubs, small businesses lone workers are located use the space for meeting, training or day to day activities.
  • As a result 81 people who attended the Job Club at Leek Library found work in the last quarter.

The Start2 development has been commissioned by Economic Development and supported by higher education partners, Job Centre Plus and Chambers of Commerce.

Achieving this has meant saying and evidencing ‘We are part of the solution not the problem’.  We may not actually save lives, but what we do – really effectively – is improve the quality of lives.

Janene Cox – Commissioner for Tourism & Culture, Staffordshire County Council & cCLOA Member