Arts, culture and libraries 2023

Culture and library services have an essential role in helping councils to engage with, and support, communities to achieve sustainable social outcomes. This is particularly relevant to levelling up, tackling health inequalities at a time of increasing financial challenges and the impact of COVID-19. The LGA’s important partnership with Arts Council England 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 rebuilding, where leadership is needed most.

Upcoming culture and library improvement programmes

See the drop-down boxes for further information about these programmes.

Online culture and library peer challenges

Programme outline

In partnership with Arts Council England, the LGA would like to hear from councils who want to benefit from an online peer challenge of their cultural services or their library services.

Perhaps you are considering innovative approaches for income generation, exploring community engagement and new partnerships or striving to strengthen strategic links between your cultural services and other council services.

We are able to offer a limited number of fully-funded peer challenges based upon the established LGA peer challenge methodology. There are three culture peer challenge opportunities and eight library services peer challenge opportunities. The peer challenges are delivered online via Teams or Zoom platforms and last between 1.5 to 2 days.

The online peer challenge can be tailored to your local needs, whether that is providing you with an objective analysis of the effect of service changes, testing out ideas for further transformation including alternative delivery models, or assessing how well services are embedded in the council delivery of corporate objectives. The peer team can also help you to assess your evidence of impact and suggest how to target limited resources or explore the strength of your partnerships and identify possibilities for more collaborative working.

We will draw upon the LGA's pool of officer and member peers to put together a peer challenge team with the expertise to help you to address the key issues facing your library or cultural services. The team will spend 1.5 to 2 days online with your council, meeting councillors, officers and partners, and seeing your work in both theory and practice.

Following the online meetings, councils will receive a confidential report that sets out the key findings, provides some recommendations on the way forward, and practical advice and signposting to help you along the journey.

These peer challenges are fully funded by Arts Council England. To find out more about peer challenges, including case studies and testimonials, visit here. Peer challenges are not an inspection but a tool for improvement. Peer challenges are carried out to your specification aimed at improving, not judging, your council.

There are eight library peer challenges and three culture peer challenges available

  • You will be a council with responsibility for library services or culture depending on which challenge you bid for.
  • You are at the point of considering significant change, or evaluating significant change.
  • You will have commitment to change from senior councillors and leaders.
  • Please note: when considering applications, priority will be given to councils that have not recently had a culture or library peer challenge.
  • If you applied previously, but were unsuccessful, please do apply again, as your council’s needs or activity may have developed since your previous application.
  • This is a popular programme and although not every application may be successful, we will try to work with every council to identify if there is appropriate support that the LGA and ACE can offer.
How to apply

To apply in either a culture or a library peer challenge, please complete this application form, including what issues you would like the peer challenge to address and how you believe the peer challenge will assist your council, along with confirmation of support from the cultural services portfolio holder and senior officer responsible for library services or cultural services. Please also highlight any innovation and new ways of working that you think the peer challenge will help to support.

We welcome applications from individual or groups of councils, but for the latter please bear in mind the scale of the support that we are able to offer. We will then follow-up with you and may request some additional information.

When putting together your application think realistically about what insights can be gathered within the timescale, and ensure that the scope is sufficiently targeted to ensure the information will be useful to your council.

Bids will be shortlisted and successful applicants will be notified shortly after their application. The peer challenges are expected to take place between March 2023 and the end of August 2023. If successful, we will ask you to indicate the dates your council would like to take part. These must be two consecutive working days.

For more information:
If you would like to informally discuss the scope of your bid, or what is entailed in a peer challenge, please email [email protected]

Senior officer programme 

Programme aims

This programme aims to support lead/senior officers for culture and libraries to:

  • Develop a greater understanding of the role of cultural and library services in the future economic growth of the local area.
  • Develop skills to lead entrepreneurial thinking within their services and the confidence to apply those skills.
  • Build and strengthen their peer networks, share information, knowledge and expertise. The pilot will be attended by both library and culture senior staff supporting a unique opportunity for peer to peer learning across these specialisms.
  • Develop a vision about how their services can contribute to tackling social challenges in the post-COVID context, for example, mental health challenges and social isolation.
  • Develop an understanding of change theory and how to apply it.
  • Refresh the tools and knowledge officers have to be cultural and library leaders through peer to peer learning.
  • Learn from a wide range of inspiring case studies presented by LA peers and external speakers.
  • Be more aware of the strategic work of the LGA and Arts Council England and the opportunities to work more closely.
  • Explore the potential for arts, culture and libraries to work with officer and political stakeholders to deliver across council agendas.
  • Access a learning pathway through the LGA (for officers who have taken part in a Peer Challenge or Recovery and Renewal Panel).
  • Identify how to share learning within their organisation and with partners.

The programme will consist of a cohort of up to 20 delegates who will be taken on the leadership journey, over the course of six facilitated sessions, plus an icebreaker and closing session. 

Each member of the cohort will identify a specific challenge they are facing in their locality at the beginning of the programme and will have the opportunity to work through this challenge along with other colleagues across the sector.

These challenges will be submitted ahead of the programme in an agreed format and circulated among other participants ahead of the course. All responses will be treated anonymously when circulated to the cohort, as the programme is designed to create an honest and open space for delegates to discuss challenges and share knowledge.

The participants will be supported by access and signposting to a wide range of relevant LGA and Arts Council England resources. 

This is not an in-person event. All sessions, plus the icebreaker and closing session will be delivered via Zoom, due to the online nature of the programme.

Join the waiting list

Applications for the 2023 programme have now closed. To register an interest in future programmes please email [email protected]

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