Arts and culture 2020-21

Cultural services and the wider creative sector have been hard-hit by the pandemic. Our important partnership with ACE enables us to provide critical support to our member councils by developing the knowledge and skills of both councillors and officers to champion cultural activity in their local areas during a period of recovery, where leadership is needed most. 

The LGA has worked closely with Arts Council England (ACE) over a number of years to deliver a shared improvement programme for councils. 

We are delighted that ACE have been able to continue their support and funding for 2020-21, despite the significant demands on budgets during this pandemic. In response to the need for social distancing, we have redesigned our programme to be delivered online, and will be running a programme of improvement activity between September 2020 and March 2021.

Cultural services and the wider creative sector have been hard-hit by the pandemic. Our important partnership with ACE enables us to provide critical support to our member councils by developing the knowledge and skills of both councillors and officers to champion cultural activity in their local areas during a period of recovery, where leadership is needed most. 

Libraries Best Practice Seminars (September 2020)

Libraries have innovated rapidly in response to COVID-19 from the start of lockdown and continue to do so as many are in the process of reopening and recovery. In partnership with ACE, the LGA wanted to capture important that the learning from this innovation. Two events were delivered in September to achieve this:

  • 29 September (Officers)
  • 30 September (Councillors)

These facilitated seminars provided an opportunity for delegates to work through their own thinking and leave the discussion with action points to take forward back to their authority. Featuring mini-case studies from councils, delegates explored the role libraries play in relation to supporting vulnerable communities, in addition to digital innovation.

What did we learn?

There was a strong sense of optimism and momentum on the role of libraries, and how the pandemic has helped to cement their position in relation to wider corporate objectives and discussions. Delegates reflected on both opportunities and concerns for the sector which included:

  • The recognised importance of digital innovation to support education and public health during COVID-19. However, the need to balance digital innovation with its impact of digital exclusion in perpetuating health inequalities must be at the forefront of recovery.
  • The central role of libraries to support vulnerable communities during COVID-19 to tackle social isolation and loneliness. For example, bereavement support, online reading festivals, support for the shielded elderly.
  • Concerns over limited use of the library building and the implications this will have on library service delivery.
  • Libraries being at the heart of communities through key role they play to public health, education and economic renewal.
  • The adaptability of library staff during the crisis has shown how flexible libraries can be, which created new connections across councils.

Delegates also reflected on what the role of libraries will be during a period of recovery, which included:

  • Supporting job seekers through one-to-one support and advice
  • Tackling unemployment and supporting people with jobs and skills
  • How to capitalise on library assets and re-think the role of libraries during recovery
  • Exploring how meeting rooms can be used for purposes of adult learning
  • How libraries can support the broader needs of the community (public health and adult social care).


The discussions have helped to inform the LGA’s lobbying work, building a strong evidence base to advocate on the role of library services at a national level and ensure their voice is heard at national top-table discussions. Some of the LGA’s key asks in our 2020 spending review included:

  • A £30 million capital funding investment in libraries to develop a network of makerspaces and public access computers to support our country’s recovery, close the digital skills divide in many of our most deprived areas, and grow entrepreneurs and innovators in every council area. 
  • The Government to provide councils with additional funding of  £500 million to invest in supporting social prescribing facilities, including leisure centres and libraries which support community activities. 
Libraries Advocacy webinars (November 2020 – January 2021)

COVID-19 has highlighted the valuable role that libraries play in relation to a wide range of social outcomes, including public health, education, skills and economic renewal. However, the anticipated financial pressures on local authorities in a post COVID-19 world mean library services may face a challenging future in the next few years. It is therefore vital that both officers councillors develop their skills and knowledge to articulate the significant contribution that library services make to communities and wider council objectives.

In partnership with Arts Council England (ACE), the LGA is delivering three webinars to support both officers and councillors develop their knowledge of library services, with 3 panel events welcoming senior representatives delivering notable work. Participants will have an opportunity to contribute their own insights to the discussion and pose questions to the panel through a facilitated discussion.

By participating, councillors and officers will update and develop their own knowledge to articulate a stronger case for investing in the role of libraries within council debates, with partner organisations and other internal/external stakeholders.

Public Health

Date: Monday 23 October 2020
Time: 10.30am-12.00pm

Education & Skills

Date: Thursday 26 October 2020
Time: 10.30am-12.00pm

Economic Renewal

Date: Friday 11 January 2021
Time: 10.30am-12.00pm

For event details and information on how to sign up visit the LGA events website.

Culture Leadership Essentials (January – March 2021)

The core aim of our flagship Leadership Essentials programme is to support a cohort of established culture portfolio holders to develop and strengthen leadership skills to become strong cultural leaders in their local areas. With COVID-19 presenting a series of challenges to the local cultural offer and leisure services, developing the leadership skills of cultural portfolio holders throughout a period of recovery will be critical in supporting them to be effective leaders of place. The crisis of COVID-19 will require councillors to collaborate, influence, and make crucial decisions to provide better outcomes for local communities. This online programme will equip them with the skills to work effectively in a crisis.

Aim of the programme:

  • To support culture portfolio holders to be exceptional leaders of arts and culture in their places during COVID-19 recovery and beyond.
  • To increase and refresh the tools and knowledge culture portfolio holders have to be cultural leaders through peer to peer sharing and learning.
  • To share a wide range of inspiring and relevant case studies presented in an engaging way by Local Authority peers and external speakers.
  • To encourage attendees to network, share information, knowledge and expertise peer to peer and to respect confidentiality.
  • To ensure that culture portfolio holders are aware of the strategic work of ACE and the longstanding partnership with the LGA.  To support opportunities to work more closely with ACE including knowing their ACE area/local contacts.
  • To ensure that culture portfolio holders are aware of the key role of councils in arts and culture, the potential for arts and culture to deliver across council agendas and are able to articulate this potential and these benefits.

With four online sessions taking place between January and March, twenty councillors will have the opportunity to meet councillors across the country, hear from notable speakers within the sector, all whilst being equipped with the knowledge and skills to work through particular leadership challenge they are specifically in their locality.

More information on the programme and how to sign up will be released soon.

Library recovery and renewal panels (January – March 2021)

Recovery and Renewal Panels are a core part of the new LGA corporate improvement offer and will support libraries to improve on current plans in a COVID-19 context. Part of the LGA’s refocused support offer, this improvement offer is a shorter and more focused version of the peer challenge process.

The Panel offer provides a framework and process for peers to help councils to reflect on their learning to date from managing the COVID-19 crisis and support. During a period of change and uncertainty, the process recognises that while no council or peer will have all the answers, there is value in sharing and exploring experiences, learning to date and developing  innovative plans for recovery and renewal.

The LGA and ACE will be working with three councils between January and March, to help to shape library plans while they are in the development stage, so the council can receive meaningful peer support and refine their plans in a period of recovery and uncertainty.

We hope to return to an open application process for peer challenges for the 2021-22 programme.