Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2007/2008

Date: 13 May 2008

Budgetary Issues

13 May 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Mr David McNarry (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Francie Brolly
The Lord Browne
Mr Kieran McCarthy
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr Pat Ramsey
Mr Jim Shannon

Witnesses:
Mr Edwin Poots ) The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure
Mr Anthony Carleton ) Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure
Mr Nick Harkness ) Sport Northern Ireland
Ms Lorraine McDowell ) Arts Council of Northern Ireland
Ms Noírín McKinney )

The Deputy Chairperson (Mr McNarry):

I welcome the witnesses to a special meeting of the Committee. We have in attendance the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Edwin Poots; Anthony Carleton, who is director of corporate services in the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure; Nick Harkness, who is finance manager in Sport NI; and from the Arts Council, we have Noírín McKinney, who is director of arts development, and Lorraine McDowell, who is director of operations.

I refer members to their packs, which contain the outstanding questions to the Minister, the Arts Council and Sport NI. There is also a copy of the Committee Clerk’s paper, which provides a summary of the meeting that was held on 29 April 2008, and which was delivered to members’ rooms yesterday. The packs also contain the Arts Council and Sport NI responses to questions, and a memo to the Department that raised issues about the Ulster Historical Foundation for discussion at today’s meeting.

I thank the Committee Clerk and her staff for providing the Committee with an extensive and easy-to-follow document, and I hope that we will make good use of it.

May I refer members to correspondence to the Minister from the Northern Ireland Museums Council that raises a number of issues; and to the summary of the meeting on 29 April 2008, which highlights those areas that need to be addressed again today, namely, non-receipt of per capita figures from the Arts Council, sharing by the Minister of a paper on royalties collection, the Minister’s discussions with his Scottish counterpart on royalties collection, and museums policy. We have a long list of questions.

Minister, how do you want to proceed? Would you like to take questions from members straight away?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure (Mr Poots):

I am in your hands. I will do whatever you wish. I will answer anything that is easy, and anything that is difficult, I will pass on to the Department.

The Deputy Chairperson:

The same invitation extends to you, Nick. Do you want to take questions from members, or do you want to make an opening gambit?

Mr Nick Harkness (Sport Northern Ireland):

We have prepared responses to those questions with which we were provided, and we are quite happy to present those responses or to answer in more detail.

The Deputy Chairperson:

OK. Could I have the first question?

Mr McCarthy:

The Ulster Historical Foundation gave a presentation to the Committee last week. The representatives were very perturbed, as was the Committee, at having been denied funding from any Department since, I believe, 2004. The foundation had previously secured funding for its work — work that the Committee much appreciated — and, suddenly, it was dropped. The foundation is now completely on its own as far as funding is concerned, and has almost reached the end of its tether.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

The foundation has not been dropped suddenly. I do not have a briefing paper on the issue, but I have a fairly strong recollection of dealing with that matter. The Ulster Historical Foundation, over a protracted period, was to aim for self-sustainability. On that basis, funding was reduced in order to allow the foundation to achieve self-sustainability over a period. A core service that the Ulster Historical Foundation provides is genealogical research, for which it charges. The foundation has, therefore, privately generated sources of funding. As a consequence, it has built up a reasonable amount in its bank account, which I understand amounts to about £300,000. I speak purely from recollection, but that figure can be clarified. At present, the foundation would be quite able to meet any deficits. Therefore, this is not an organisation that is in real financial difficulties in the same way as some other organisations about which we have talked.

I am happy to listen to any case that can be made and to work with the foundation. However, it has income streams from private sources and a substantial reserve of money. One has to ask: is it the best use of public money to further fund an organisation that is in that position?

The Deputy Chairperson:

Do you wish to come back on that?

Mr McCarthy:

Yes I do. My recollection of that presentation corresponds with what the Minister has just said. Further, and correct me if I am wrong, they did have a members’ rule. The Ulster Historical Foundation received funding until 2004 and it generates an income from its print books, etc. It seemed, however, that it was in receipt of a dowry, and it was at that stage, or shortly afterwards, that funding was cut. That would lead me, and probably others, to suspect that because of that dowry, the Department has decided to let the foundation get on with its work and that has been the case ever since. Although, recently, it does seem to be struggling.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

Funding for the Ulster Historical Foundation was to have been cut in 2004 or 2005, but it continued at £38,000 per annum until 2007. I am happy, Mr Deputy Chairman, for Colin Watson from museums branch, who deals with this issue, to come and have a proper exchange with the Committee; the situation may not be as straightforward as it appears.

When we are handling public money — and there are lots of groups out there with great needs — occasionally a judgement call has to be made.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Thank you Minister. You will appreciate that, in many ways, the Committee is being treated as a lobbying outlet and, therefore, receives first-hand information and news before it begins its scrutiny — its inquisition, if you like. That is what Mr McCarthy is doing, and we should maybe follow that up; we will take a note of the Minister’s invitation to Colin Watson.

Wallace has indicated that he would like to ask a question, is it on the same subject?

Lord Browne:

No.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Mr Ramsey, is your question on the same subject?

Mr P Ramsey:

Yes.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Let me remind members, and bear in mind that we are six members down, that the Committee papers provide us with the outstanding questions. The Department and the organisations concerned have kindly supplied us with answers, so we need to pick up on those to see whether any further information is needed.

Mr P Ramsey:

I welcome the Minister and the officials. Kieran is reflecting an opinion that, if not the consensus, is shared by most of the full Committee. The Ulster Historical Foundation told members that some old woman in America left it £200,000, but it seems that that money is being used as revenue and is greatly reducing.

Undoubtedly, the Ulster Historical Foundation’s presentation to the Committee was one of the better ones regarding output and public service. As an organisation, it promotes the retention of historical documents, photographs, texts, and townland names, when nobody else will. As articulated, the resulting community value and the tourism aspect have all the credentials of a pure cultural and historical service, and that is something that the Minister should evaluate.

I take the Minister’s point that other groups may have needs, but given that the Ulster Historical Foundation is providing such a good service and good material, available to everyone in Northern Ireland, one can see why the Department should consider some type of service-level agreement.

The Deputy Chairman:

Just for the record, I know that you referred to “some old woman”, but, really, we do not know her age, and she was a benefactor to whom the foundation was most grateful.

Mr P Ramsey:

I will qualify that for the Hansard report; I should have said “some lady from America”.

The Deputy Chairperson:

That is very good — just in case she sets her solicitors on us.

Lord Browne:

I will take the Deputy Chairman’s advice and restrict myself to the listed questions. Question nine states that the money allocated is closely linked to the implementation of the Northern Ireland strategy for sport. Is that funding allocated on an annual basis, and, if so, who would be involved in a review of that funding?

Mr Harkness:

Like other Departments, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure has an indicative three-year allocation through the comprehensive spending review, which gives an indication of the likely exchequer capital and revenue income over the next three years. In addition, the Department receives lottery income, which, at the minute, is somewhat in decline. That income is likely to be in the region of £4·5 million, depending on the number of lottery tickets sold.

We anticipate that spending on community sports facilities will cover a number of areas. Our resource budget for revenue programmes over the three years will be around £12·7 million. Some £38 million will be allocated for the capital budget. Those figures comprise a combination of our lottery and exchequer incomes. As regards the timing of the decisions on which projects will be funded, some were already made by our council — capital projects take a long time to go through the planning and tendering processes. Others will be new decisions that the council will take over the next three years.

Mr McCausland:

I want to turn to question 29. I declare an interest as chairperson of Belfast Education and Library Board’s library committee. The paper points out:

“The Belfast Board will receive 19·8% of available resources for library services in 2008/09 even though it contains only 15·1% of the population of Northern Ireland”.

Does that figure of 19·8% include the figure for the Central Library reference section, or is that a separate figure?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

I understand that 19·8% of the total budget goes to Belfast Education and Library Board.

Mr McCausland:

Including the money for the Central Library?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

Yes.

Mr McCausland:

Some of that disproportionately large figure for Belfast Education and Library Board — an extra 4·7%, almost 5%, of funding — would, of course, be down to the extra payment for the Central Library. So, we are now implementing the ARNE (assessment of relative needs exercise) formula. The last paragraph of the paper states:

“I am determined to end this inequality of funding”.

In that sense, there is no inequality in that the funding formula that has been agreed has now been implemented. So, according to the formula, that amount is appropriate. Is that the case?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

The ARNE formula was implemented over a period of years. It was introduced incrementally so that it would not be such a shock to the system for the Belfast Education and Library Board because it suffered as a consequence of ARNE.

Mr McCausland:

I just want to get this matter clear in my own mind; in what year will the formula have been fully implemented?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

Do you know that offhand, Anthony? I think that it will run for at least one more year.

Mr Anthony Carleton (Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure):

I think that there is one year left.

Mr McCausland:

Does that mean this financial year plus another year?

Mr Carleton:

I think that there is just this year left to run.

Mr McCausland:

So, does the allocation for this year bring us to the final figure?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

I would have to check that. When we reviewed the additional money that was allocated to libraries, we allowed for an additional allocation for the Belfast area this year, in recognition of the issues with Belfast Central Library. Although it is based in Belfast, the Central Library provides a Province-wide service and deals with some regional matters, and we felt that that fact should be recognised.

Mr McCausland:

It would be helpful to get the precise figures for population and social deprivation. As is stated, Belfast Education and Library Board area covers 15·1% of the population of Northern Ireland. Under ARNE, what percentage of funding is the Belfast area entitled to if account has been taken of social deprivation as well?

The paper also states:

“The ARNE funding formula allows 35% of the regional aspects of the services provided at Belfast Central Library.”

The Centre for Migration Studies provides a regional service, and 100% of its costs are allocated under the ARNE formula, even though people from the area surrounding the Western Education and Library Board may well go to visit the centre. No difference is drawn in that case — the funding is 100%.

It states:

“When it was established, this figure was considered to represent the use of Belfast Central Library’s Services by people resting outside the city.”

I have asked this question before but I have still not received an answer. When was it determined to allow 35% of the regional aspects of the services provided at Belfast Central Library? What evidence and paperwork were produced to back up that figure?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

I do not have sufficient detail to answer that question. I understand that the split is 90% population and 10% deprivation. I will ascertain when the 35% figure was calculated and bring that answer forward.

Mr McCausland:

When I asked that question before — if my recollection is correct — I was told 1·4%. That figure was historic and nobody knew why or how it had been produced.

The difficulties facing the Belfast Education and Library Board are almost entirely linked to the Belfast Central Library. If the Central Library is omitted from the board’s budget, it stacks up. Inclusion of the Central Library in the budget puts the board in deficit.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Are you content that the Minister will return and fill those gaps, Nelson?

Mr McCausland:

It is important that we get clarity on that figure and a proper assessment of what would be an appropriate provision for the Central Library’s service. Each of the five education and library boards — as they are at the moment — cannot create its own centre of migration studies; that has to be done on a regional basis. The Central Library is unique, so this assessment must be done on a regional basis. Otherwise, it will not be done at all because we do not have a national library in Northern Ireland. The assessment of relative needs exercise is fine apart from the 35% figure for the Central Library, which is too low. That figure should really be about 70%, or two thirds of the total fund. I am happy for the Minister to come back on those points.

May I ask a question on a different matter?

The Deputy Chairperson:

Pat, do you want to ask a follow-up question on this subject?

Mr P Ramsey:

I wanted to come in earlier, on Wallace’s question about the sports capital community moneys. However, I have a general question on libraries and the ARNE formula.

I understand that the ARNE formula is relatively good and balanced, and enables regions to target social need. Other regions do not want the ARNE formula to be adjusted because — for obvious reasons — they are quite happy with it. Will there be a review of the assessment for library provision next year?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

The Northern Ireland library authority will take over next year. Therefore, funding will be granted to Northern Ireland plc for libraries rather than to distinct library boards. The new single library authority will decide how to distribute that money. I imagine that the historical basis of distribution will be used.

The ARNE formula has caused the Belfast Education and Library Board a great degree of pain, and that should be acknowledged. One of the major problems facing the Belfast Education and Library Board is the divided and diverse nature of the city. An individual may live close, geographically, to a particular library. However, that individual may not feel comfortable using that service because the library is situated in a community in which he or she is not made to feel welcome, whether on one side or the other. That additional difficulty will not be overcome in the near future but over a longer period. For example, peace walls cannot be taken down over night simply because someone has said that it would be good if they were not in place. It would be good if they were not in place, but the issue is more complex.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Do you have a separate question, Pat? Nelson has a separate question, distinct from the libraries issue.

Mr P Ramsey:

I am happy to wait my turn, Chair.

The Deputy Chairperson:

I will ask a question. We will not forget you, ladies, but we are concentrating on sports and libraries first.

I want to consider Sport NI’s answers to questions that the Committee asked about underspend. The inability to spend money seems rather strange. I note that the GAA was unable to spend the full amount of an award and that a contractor who was working on safe sports grounds went into liquidation. Sport NI’s correspondence also says that there was an underspend of £900,000 from the soccer strategy because of IFA (Irish Football Association) governance issues? Is there an explanation for that?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

Towards the end of 2007, and during the early part of 2008, considerable debate took place over the governance of the IFA. Part of the agreement that granted £8 million to the soccer strategy was that significant reform would take place in the organisations that look after the needs of football. In 2007, an extraordinary general meeting took place to reduce the management board of the IFA, but the proposal to do that did not receive the support of the requisite 75% of delegates. Subsequently, the IFA held another extraordinary general meeting, at which it did receive 75% support to reduce the management board.

Those issues have been dealt with, and Sport NI —

The Deputy Chairperson:

Sorry to interrupt you, Minister. Does that mean that the IFA now has that money?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

No, £3·5 million will go to the IFA over the next year.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Do you mean 2008?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

The IFA will receive that money during 2008-09. Perhaps Nick Harkness can explain the exact situation with that, but I understand that most of the hurdles have been crossed. I hope that the £3·5 million can be allocated to the IFA in the next month, if not before then. That includes the £900,000 that will roll over from the previous year.

Mr Harkness:

The £3·5 million is profiled to be spent over this financial year and the following financial year. The applications have been received and assessed jointly by the IFA and Sport Northern Ireland. Sport Northern Ireland’s council has approved a policy paper, which involves the IFA delivering that capital programme with an oversight from Sport Northern Ireland. However, although one hurdle, that of the introduction of a competency-based board, has disappeared, another hurdle has emerged this week. The IFA appears to have decided that it is not content to accept the risk-management requirements of Sport Northern Ireland on legal charges over facilities. Those requirements would be the means by which we could recoup investment if, for example, any of the clubs went into liquidation or failed to honour their terms and conditions. Although hurdles have disappeared recently, another one has appeared this week, and we are working actively to try to negotiate that position.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Out of nosiness, would the only beneficiaries of the money be the teams that will play in the incoming, reduced Premier League, or will the benefits be spread beyond those teams?

Mr Harkness:

The benefits will be spread beyond those teams.

The Deputy Chairperson:

So the cake will be divided into many slices?

Mr Harkness:

The projects range from small pieces of work, such as fencing, at a cost of £70,000, to pitch refurbishments and lighting, which would cost up to £300,000.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Does that mean that a wee team in Comber called Comber Rec might be in with a chance of getting some money?

Mr Harkness:

I am not able to comment on that specific club.

The Deputy Chairperson:

That is a pity.

Mr McCausland:

Do you want to declare an interest?

The Deputy Chairperson:

I am a season ticket holder at Comber Rec.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

Would that club have been eligible for the original premier intermediate league (PIL) funding, which was available for smaller clubs? Is that funding still available?

Mr Harkness:

Those funding decisions have been made. The clubs that have been successful in their funding applications have not been informed and offer letters have not been issued.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Perhaps there is still time to apply for funding. You and I are not allowed to lobby, Kieran.

Mr McCarthy:

I will support you, go ahead.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Correspondence from Sport NI asked the Committee to note that provisional figures show that it ended the year with an underspend of nearly £2 million. The last time that representatives from Sport NI visited the Committee, members were told that that organisation is underfunded, and a good case was made for extra money for this, that and the other. Was that request separate from the money that Sport NI has not been able to spend?

Mr Harkness:

Unfortunately, the notes that were provided show that those clubs that received awards through the stadia safety programme have taken between 18 and 28 months to deliver on their schemes. The reasons for those delays are due to issues in the clubs and issues that are beyond their control, such as the liquidation of a construction company. As the programme is high risk, and we have had difficulty with it in the past, we are required to apply high-risk conditions of grant, which has — in some cases — slowed down the clubs’ ability to spend money. That, combined with the slowness of the IFA to move to the competency-based board, which the Minister referred to earlier, has necessitated the underspend.

We offered up £2·8 million for re-profiling in future years. When that was rejected, we worked with some of our applicants and secured an additional £800,000 of spend, which we did not think the clubs were originally capable of. Therefore, we did claw some spend back from the brink.

The Deputy Chairperson:

If the money is not spent, is it lost? Did Sport NI make representations to keep the £300,000 that was not spent?

Mr Harkness:

We asked to carry the £300,000 over to the next financial year, but that request was rejected. Consequently, the spend will have to come out of this years’ allocation.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Does Sport NI have that money?

Mr Harkness:

Yes, we do.

Mr McCarthy:

Recently, I was in the company of representatives from Comber Rifle Club who were disappointed that their request for assistance to bring a sporting event to Northern Ireland had been refused. I said that the refusal was strange because Sport NI had to hand back £300,000 of funding that it had not spent. I would appreciate a comment on that? The club missed the opportunity, and the event went to England, which the club was disappointed about.

Mr Harkness:

The most recent application from Comber Rifle Club was in relation to the elite facilities programme. My recollection is that the club submitted an application by the closing date. However, that application was incomplete, and when it was assessed against other applications and the independent assessment criteria, of which the club was informed, it failed to reach the eligibility standard.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Kieran, you can go back to Comber Rifle Club and explain that to its members — unless they already know. I welcome Jim Shannon MLA to the meeting.

Mr P Ramsey:

In funding for community sports facilities, we are talking about money that also goes through councils and is dispersed for a variety of reasons, such as changing-room facilities. What was the shortfall between the Sport NI allocation and the cost of fully implementing the sports strategy? There is no breakdown of revenue and capital in the answer to that question in the submission.

Mr Harkness:

Question 7 in the submission asked for a breakdown of how the £42 million of sport capital will be allocated over the next three years. Our answer outlined the anticipated spend over the three financial years by programme heading. For example, in this financial year, we will expend £11·7 million of exchequer investment on our Building Sport programme and £4·2 million on stadia safety. The total expenditure is £20·3 million for this financial year. Those profiles are £20·3 million, £18·9 million and £8·6 million in the respective years. Does that answer the question?

Mr P Ramsey:

Will the groups be concerned about the revenue available? In my area, developmental work has been conducted to increase access to, and participation in, sport. Will Sport NI continue with those levels of programming and funding?

Mr Harkness:

Including our ring-fenced allocations in previous years, there is a slight dip in our resource allocation for the incoming year. A small increase will occur during year 2 of the comprehensive spending review, with a significant increase in year 3 — up to £13 million. Therefore, by 2010-11 Sport NI will be in a position to implement the anticipated revenue investments identified in the strategy for sport.

Mr P Ramsey:

The Committee is conducting an inquiry into per capita underfunding of sport and art; are there up-to-date figures on money spent per capita on sports here compared with other regions? The Committee had hoped that the VALCAL study, which — for want of a better word — was abandoned, would succeed in providing some comfort. I know that the Minister wants to establish an evidence base to ensure adequate funding. Does Sport NI, the Arts Council or the Department have any suggestions about how the Committee can commence that inquiry? Is any evidence available?

We must convince the Executive, and other Ministers, of the importance of ensuring increased access to, and participation in, sport. They must recognise the economic turnaround and difficulties with job creation experienced by that sector, and must target social need and social inclusion. Are there any models in other regions that the Committee should consider? For example, Northern Ireland spends £7·30 per capita on sports, whereas the Republic of Ireland spends £15. How does that difference in funding affect sport in Ireland?

It is important to place a huge emphasis on increased participation in sport to ensure that, in future, money spent on health will be reduced. The Committee will discuss those problems on Thursday and attempt to devise an action plan.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

Do you have comparative figures for the rest of the UK and the Republic, Nick?

Mr Harkness:

I do not have those figures, but we understand, anecdotally, that we receive less funding. However, Sport NI feels that it is more relevant to invest against need. The Minister is considering the final draft of the strategy for sport, wherein we have tried to identify the needs of sport and compare costs with available budgets. It is important to identify the need, attempt to cost that need and decide whether the investment is a financially viable option.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

The figures for the art sector are well publicised.

Ms Noírín McKinney (Arts Council of Northern Ireland):

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland received an analysis of UK per capita figures for 2008-09 after its increase in funding under the comprehensive spending review, for which it was grateful. That settlement increases the figure to £7·09 per capita in 2008-09. The Arts Council England is closest to that figure, with £8·51 per capita, and Wales has a figure of £9·62. As Pat Ramsey has rightly indicated, the figure in the Republic of Ireland is £15·29 per capita. We do not have the Scottish figure because the cultural landscape has been developed radically, and the Scottish Arts Council has become part of a larger consortium of cultural institutions. That settlement has not been reached through the Scottish Parliament yet, and, therefore, we do not have those figures.

Like the Sports Council, the Arts Council presented a fully costed plan through the opportunity afforded by the comprehensive spending review. We felt that this plan was robust in its case for the arts, and also set out some of the wider impacts of how the arts can benefit wider society, as Pat has described.

We had costed the plan at an additional £26 million, and would be keen to continue to pursue that case. We believed that we had set out the costed case for the arts. I am happy to continue to supply such information to the Committee and to keep it updated.

Mr P Ramsey:

In what position would the costed case have left Northern Ireland? Would the current per capita spend of £7.09 have progressed to £10?

Ms McKinney:

If the funding of £27 million had been received, our per capita spend would have been £11.

Mr P Ramsey:

I am sorry Chair, but it is important that the Committee takes this opportunity to ask questions. Why could the VALCAL study not progress to find evidence that would make the Executive look more favourably on arts spending? We are not talking about pure culture, we are talking about the culture of Northern Ireland and all the elements attached to it. The Committee cannot take more time over this issue. We cannot waste more time going down a road with nothing at its end. We have to ensure that, if we are carrying out an inquiry on sport, that it is done effectively and efficiently. Any inquiry must have an end result that will help the council as well as the communities that are working in that field.

Ms McKinney:

I cannot answer that question directly except by continuing to provide the information required in the undertaking of the inquiry. The Arts Council’s five-year plan for the arts brings us up to 2011-12. That is where we would really see the developmental agenda for the arts over the next four-year period. Many of those aspirations cannot be met with the current level of resources. Those aspirations could be more clearly identified to the Committee if required.

The pre-draft budget settlement indicated where that would leave us regarding the numbers of organisations directly affected, and the policy development work that we want to undertake but could not sustain. The budget settlement was able to save some of those programmes.

The Deputy Chairperson:

I think that Mr Ramsey is being helpful by alerting you to the fact that we have decided, as a Committee, to hold an inquiry that will include the arts. We expect a better answer than has been given to us when the inquiry begins. Now, you have been forewarned and have time to think about your answer before the inquiry begins.

Mr McCausland:

How much is the budget for musical instruments for bands in 2008-09? How much was the budget oversubscribed in last year’s figures? What was the increase on the 2008-09 figure from previous years?

Ms Lorraine McDowell (Arts Council of Northern Ireland):

The budget for the past two years for musical instruments for bands was £150,000.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Sorry, we are having some difficulty hearing you up here. Be dramatic.

Ms McDowell:

I will project.

The budget for the past two years has been £150,000 per annum, which was drawn from lottery funding. With the reduction in lottery funds, we had to rethink that programme, and it looked as though we were not going to be able to continue with the scheme. However, as part of the settlement this year, we were given a capital line by the Department. From that capital line, we are re-introducing the musical instruments for bands scheme, with a budget of £200,000 this year, with, potentially, the same provision for 2009-10.

For subscriptions last year, the Arts Council did not turn down many bands. I could not give members an exact figure, but maybe 10 or 12 bands were rejected in the final round — therefore, not a substantial number of rejections. Many of those were rejected on the basis of quality rather than whether the funds were available.

Mr McCausland:

Was there a pattern? The scheme was running for a number of years and some instruments require more frequent replacement — others less frequent replacement. In the early years of the scheme, there was heavy oversubscription. Has that tailed off?

Ms McDowell:

Yes, it has. I believe that the Arts Council has given approximately £3.5 million to the band sector, and the number of applications is tailing off. The Arts Council is now reconsidering those bands that received instruments in the very early days of the scheme — in the 1990s — as some of those instruments are well used and do need replaced.

Mr McCausland:

When was the scheme introduced?

Ms McDowell:

It was introduced in 1994 or 1995.

Mr Shannon:

I have two questions for the Minister. My first question is in relation to the underspend of £2·3 million of the capital budget that was returned to the public coffers. The Minister may be aware of the situation with Portadown Football Club, which is appealing a decision to exclude it from the new premier league. There are stories of many different solutions that have been proposed, but Bangor Football Club could be admitted to the premier league in Portadown’s place.

If Bangor Football Club was admitted to the premier league, would there be any provision that some of that underspend could be used to assist that club to bring its grounds up to the standard required to play in the premier league? I would be keen to fight to ensure that Bangor Football Club would qualify for any assistance that might be available should that scenario take place.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

You might have an interest in having a football facility in the new council area in 2011.

The Deputy Chairperson:

I was thinking that too, Minister.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

Applications for ground improvements are made through the soccer strategy and the safe stadia initiative. Bangor Football Club could be one of the clubs to benefit. As Nick said earlier, such funding is not restricted to premier league clubs. Portadown will receive money, and it will receive that money regardless of whether it loses the appeal — provided that it meets all the other criteria. Nick, do you know whether Bangor Football Club is also to be a recipient?

Mr Harkness:

I do not have the names of the clubs with me. It is not an area of work that I have been responsible for. However, I can find out.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

It does not exclude clubs that are not in the premier league.

Mr Shannon:

My question was whether there is any way that Bangor Football Club could access financial assistance to upgrade its grounds and club — if they found itself being elevated to the premier league? Is there any system or methodology that would allow that to happen?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

The current process is already well advanced. The applications have been lodged, and I am not sure whether Bangor Football Club has submitted an application for Clandeboye Park.

Mr Harkness:

It is our intention to reopen the stadia safety programme for applications in 2009-10. Therefore, clubs will have an opportunity to apply for funding for health and safety improvements at their grounds.

Mr Shannon:

To be fair, 2009-10 is a bit far away. If Bangor Football Club is to be elevated to the premier league, it will receive notification in the next few months.

My second point concerns shooting sports. I do not know why, but, as well as excelling in boxing, people in Northern Ireland excel in shooting sports. Is the Minister aware that the national shooting week event was held from 3-11 May 2008? I ask that because he referred to sports’ development. Was the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure involved in that event; did it give, or was it asked to give, any assistance? It seems a little unreal that a national shooting sports event — in which attempts were made to introduce young people to the sport and to identify potential stars for the 2012 Olympics and beyond, rather than for this year — should be held, supposedly, encompassing the whole of the United Kingdom, but only involving Scotland, Wales and England. Therefore, I am curious about whether the Department was introduced to, had any questions about, or requests for assistance from, any shooting organisations in Northern Ireland. If not, and given that the people behind guns, rather than guns, are the problem, and that there is clearly potential for young stars to rise and shine, will the Department assist shooting sports?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

Applications for assistance for that event never crossed my desk, and neither were there any invitations. I am not familiar with the event, and I am not sure whether Sport NI received any applications. Nevertheless, there were two elite facilities applications — one, which Nick Harkness mentioned, in Comber, and one in Dungannon — neither of which were submitted in the initial tranche of elite facilities applications.

Mr Harkness:

Sport Northern Ireland worked extensively with the shooting associations in order to bring them together and to ensure the production of a good quality, combined application for the various Olympic disciplines. Unfortunately, that failed to happen.

Furthermore, we support potential high-performance athletes. In fact, there is a young girl, whose name escapes me, who is funded through our athlete support programme and who is featured in one of our publications in order to generate some publicity for her and her sport.

Mr Shannon:

If the shooting sports organisations were, as Nick Harkness said, to galvanise themselves, would the Department be happy to respond and assist?

Mr Harkness:

Consider the example of the 2&4 Wheel Motor Sport Steering Group. In recent years, it combined to make successful applications for our various funding streams, and that has made a significant difference to its sports’ strategic development. Bringing a sport’s different disciplines and governance arrangements together under one governance arrangement helps efficiency and strategic planning and allows athletes to move from one discipline to another. Although I cannot specifically guarantee that shooting sports would get any money, combining governance arrangements would be a positive move to further the strategic development of the sport.

Mr Shannon:

I think that that young girl comes from Ards borough, so she is quite a talented.

Lord Browne:

It was indicated that £8·1 million has been allocated for the stadia safety programme over the next three years. Can a breakdown be provided of how much money has been allocated to rugby, soccer, Gaelic games and, indeed, any other sports, such as cricket, which might qualify for money to bring their stadia up to the required standard?

Mr Harkness:

I can confirm that 18 stadia safety projects have gone through the assessment and allocation process. Three projects have been completed, and have drawn down £1·8 million. Four have diggers on site, and are making improvements. Four projects are due to commence this year, and will expend £3·7 million this year and £700,000 next year, and seven projects are completing full green book appraisals. We anticipate that they will spend approximately £500,000 in this financial year and £4·3 million in the next.

At the moment, I do not have the breakdown of money allocated to the three sports, but that information could easily be made available to the Committee.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

That is for current applications as opposed to historic ones. Historically, over the past few years, around £6 million was spent on Gaelic football and a similar amount was split between rugby and football.

Lord Browne:

I will ask about the elite facilities programme. Will there be an evaluation of the benefit of building elite facilities? I think of the performance of our competitors in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games. I want the standard to improve, because Northern Ireland’s performance has been well below par. Are there any plans to evaluate the outcomes?

Mr Harkness:

Each of the applications is against a specific sport, or discipline within that sport. The requirements include stipulations that the governing body of that sport must submit a high performance plan, and that the applicant must illustrate how that facility will help to realise the aspirations and key performance indicators (KPIs) in the sport’s high performance plan. A monitoring exercise will be set up to ascertain whether those are met. Each applicant is asked to produce two sets of key performance indicators: one is in relation to the facility, and what it will achieve in targeting social need, employment and participation in the sport; the second is in relation to sport-specific KPIs and the level of achievement of high-performance athletes.

Mr P Ramsey:

Before we concluded the last meeting, the Minister talked of a new strategy aimed at the modernisation of existing stadiums. That prompted a question on Derry City’s plans. Departmental officials were asked to write a discussion paper. All members have to take account of the views of constituents, Derry City Football Club is one of my constituents — along with Institute Football Club, which, may I add, is trying to modernise its facilities. Is there a time frame for that? What are the Department’s aspirations or vision for that?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

We have set no time frames as yet. As to the work that I asked officials for, I anticipate that it will take a little longer, in view of the speed at which the Civil Service operates. I may receive an initial paper as to what we might be able to do, or how we can deliver modern stadiums to Northern Ireland, over and above what is being done at present, before the summer. However, that will look at the development of new stadiums, as opposed to refurbishment of existing ones.

Mr P Ramsey:

Many clubs are considering urban and social regeneration of stadiums, including business aspects, with a view to increasing their revenue streams. Does the Minister envisage collaboration with other Departments to get capital for those developments?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

I will collaborate with clubs and organisations, the private sector, other Departments and local authorities — or whoever might be in a position to help us to deliver. For example, the Crusaders Football Club proposal involves the sale of land to a private developer, land contributed by a council organisation and the private sector delivering third-generation pitches that will then be used for rental to generate revenue streams. The private sector will also provide retail units to provide further income streams. That is the range of involvement and that example also includes the involvement of another Department. The Derry City proposal will involve the Department for Social Development.

I will work with whatever package is able to bring it all together. I do not mind whether it is private or public sector, Government colleagues or local authorities — I am happy to work with whoever can deliver.

Mr P Ramsey:

May I ask a question about an entirely different matter?

The Deputy Chairperson:

Just before you change tack, I must mention something.

I remember a long time ago, when I was a kid, playing at Windsor Park against Derry City Football Club — between the 18 yard lines at half time, I might add.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

I was almost going to say: then you woke up and had your cornflakes.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Those up and coming young players had artistic flair, but they developed bad ankle injuries, but that is another story. In those days, Derry City Football Club was in the Northern Ireland league. I do not wish to cause offence to you, Pat, by asking the question —

Mr P Ramsey:

This session is being recorded by Hansard, so I will read the report to find out whether you have caused offensive.

The Deputy Chairperson:

We talked earlier about the safety criteria and about how we help clubs that play competitively and participate within Northern Ireland rules, obligations, and so on. Does the Department have a policy on clubs in Northern Ireland that opt to play competitively and commercially in leagues outside Northern Ireland?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

Some clubs play in all-Ireland sporting organisations, such as Ballymena and Dungannon Rugby Clubs. However, football is different, as it is not an all-Ireland organisation. The Irish Football Association has been established for longer than the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). Some time ago, Derry City Football Club chose to play in the FAI after not playing in any league for a long time. Every time that I meet Derry City Football Club, I try to persuade it to come back to the IFA.

The Deputy Chairperson:

I concur with that.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

It would be in the wider interests of Northern Ireland football if Derry City Football Club were to come back to the Irish League. It is one of the bigger clubs in Northern Ireland, and it could bring considerable gate money. A derby match between Derry City and Coleraine, or matches between Glentoran or Linfield and Derry City would attract large crowds. That would generate more interest in the local game and make it more competitive. It would be very good news if Derry City Football Club were to come back to the IFA, but it is for the club to make that decision. However, it is another matter whether clubs should be funded when they do not play in the Irish League.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Does the Department have a policy in place for such clubs?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

There is no policy in place at the moment. I have given some thought to the matter, but I have not arrived at any decision on it.

The Deputy Chairperson:

At times, Linfield has been envied and also criticised. The premier league clubs discuss the revenue that Linfield derives from hosting international matches, but are there any discussions between the premier league clubs about representations being made for funding? Is there a view on that?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

Are you talking about the Derry City proposals?

The Deputy Chairperson:

Yes. Finally, have the FAI contacted you about funding? Is Derry City seeking funding from the FAI?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

Derry City Football Club, not the FAI, contacted me directly. Derry City Football Club is seeking a package of around £15 million. Pat will correct me if my figures are wrong, but I think that it would deliver £5 million, and it would look to the Southern Government for £5 million and to the Department for Social Development and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure for assistance with the other £5 million. That is the simplistic way of putting it. Things may work out differently if they are to proceed, but I think that is what the club would like.

No other club has made a representation about Derry City. I know that Derry City and some people in it have been talking to other clubs about the possibility of establishing an all-Ireland league. I do not think that that is a runner or in the wider interests of football in Northern Ireland, particularly having looked at the rugby situation.

For example, Ballymena, which is a strong rugby club, gets gates of 400 to 600 for a match with a top club from the South of Ireland. Soccer could not sustain those numbers, because it does not have the private-sector support that rugby enjoys.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Thank you, Minister. We need to decide whether to adjourn the meeting following the Division in the House.

Mr Shannon:

I will not be able to return after the Division because I am due to speak in the next debate.

The Deputy Chairperson:

We will have a quorum. Are all other members able to return after the Division? Does that suit you, Minister?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

Yes.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Thank you.

Committee suspended for a Division in the House.

On resuming —

The Deputy Chairperson:

The Minister has not yet returned. I am sure that he would not mind us proceeding without him. Are you OK with that, Anthony?

Mr Carleton:

Yes, I am.

The Deputy Chairperson:

We will blame it on you, then. [Laughter.] Pat, had you finished your question?

Mr P Ramsey:

I had not finished it.

The Deputy Chairperson:

I do not believe you. [Laughter.]

Mr P Ramsey:

I had not finished it. I allowed you an intervention; then you allowed three supplementary questions.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Would you like to continue now?

Mr P Ramsey:

I want to finish the point about Derry City Football Club. Given that you have —

The Deputy Chairperson:

I thought that you were moving on to a separate issue.

Mr P Ramsey:

I am, but I want to qualify a point. The Setanta cup is an all-Ireland competition that includes Linfield and Glentoran. There is a growing consensus among particular clubs that compete in it — and a growing momentum among fans — about a move to an all-island league. Fundamentally, the Minister was correct about the overall scheme with regards to Derry City Football Club. We have had an indication from the Irish Government that they would match any funding coming from Northern Ireland through the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure or the Department for Social Development.

I have questions about the future of certain events, particularly sporting events, in the aftermath of the Northern Ireland Events Company’s demise. In a private capacity, I am interested in the future of the Foyle cup. Also, there are other events that do not fall into any quarter; for example, the four-hundredth anniversary commemorations of the plantation of Ulster. How will the support for those events unfold? All Assembly Members have been invited to an event here on Monday, which is a showcase of heritage within the walled city of Derry, including the Memorial Hall, St Columb’s Cathedral and Long Tower Church, among others. That event is a prelude to several meetings on Monday with the Ulster-Scots Agency as regards planning in conjunction with other organisations, including Derry City Council. How will those events unfold?

My last question has been asked previously as a question for oral answer. Greyhound racing is not classified as a sport. However, given the economic value of the greyhound industry, as has been seen in Dublin, does the Minister or Sport Northern Ireland see any occasion for having greyhound racing recognised as a sport?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

The Ulster-Scots Agency is considering the celebrations for the four-hundredth anniversary of the plantation of Ulster. It is unfortunate that, as a Government, we have missed the trick. There should have been a four-hundredth anniversary on a whole series of events, which started off with the flight of the earls and followed through to the establishment of the city of Londonderry by The Honourable The Irish Society. Although it would be politically contentious — and it will be Derry City Council’s decision — a parade to coincide with the London 2012 Olympic Games would offer the city a wonderful opportunity to promote itself and its connections with London to tourists. However, that may not be deliverable because of political sensitivities, although huge opportunities are available if they were to be taken up. The Ulster-Scots Agency is working with other organisations to deliver something for the four-hundredth anniversary of 1609.

What was the last question?

Mr P Ramsey:

I understand that there is no contention with the commemoration celebrations for the anniversary of the plantation. However, there must be an effective working out of understanding in sharing the past and preparing for the future.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

I was thinking more about 2012, and the establishment of the city by the traders of Londonderry.

Mr P Ramsay:

No, for example, The Honourable The Irish Society will be here on Monday with a showcase leading up to the commemoration and celebrations of the plantation. However, it would be sensible to have the matter discussed at a North/South Ministerial Council as well, to ensure the Irish Government’s involvement, given Donegal’s role in the event.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

Your other question related to dog racing, which, along with pigeon racing, is not regarded as a sport because is does not involve a person becoming engaged in physical exercise — other than walking the dogs or carrying the pigeon crates. The animals are performing, as opposed to people. Horse racing, for example, is different because a jockey is involved in the sport.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Barry McElduff rides a greyhound . [Laughter.]

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

That does not bear thinking about.

The Deputy Chairperson:

I could not resist saying that.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

I know that there are issues involved, as dog racing contributes to the turf accountant industry. Dog racing contributes around 15% of the overall money taken by bookmakers. Money is redistributed into horseracing through bookmakers.

Therefore, although the matter is outside of sport, they have a case for why they should get an element of that money. Perhaps, that should be dealt with by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. At present, it is more a matter of trade than of sport.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Do they benefit from the Tote?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

As I understand it, they do not. Although they probably contribute around 15% to the Tote, they do not benefit in any way.

Mr P Ramsey:

A betting levy is taken from every bookmaker’s shop in Northern Ireland. That money is meant to be dispersed between horse racing and greyhound racing. In England and Scotland, for example, at least 20% of the betting levy, which amounts to £4 million or £5 million, is redistributed to the greyhound racing industry. In Northern Ireland, all betting levies go to horse racing.

Mr McCausland:

There was concern among the Committee about a strategy for museums. I am not quite sure how the matter was left the last time that it was discussed. In the past, work that was done with consultants, which involved a huge amount of money, did not come to fruition. The Northern Ireland Museums Council offered to produce a strategy at minimal cost. Is that still a possibility, or has it been kicked into touch?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

I understand that the Northern Ireland Museums Council’s policy is, possibly, to offer to do that for free. However, departmental officials would have to examine the policy, and so forth. Therefore, the Department has some resistance to that because it would create an additional workload. I am happy to examine that and to ask officials to explain what that additional workload would be and whether it would not be beneficial for the Department to get involved. If the workload is not too strenuous, a museums policy could be established. I am happy to consider that matter.

The Museums Council is due to come to an end under the review of public administration (RPA). Perhaps, there is an element of the council’s wanting to create an opportunity for continuation. There is a case for that to some extent, in the sense that it will get charitable funding that probably will not be achieved by local authorities. If, under RPA, that funding was to go to local authorities, they could still buy those services from the Northern Ireland Museum Council. Therefore, that amount of funding, which is around £250,000 to £300,000, from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure to the Northern Ireland Museums Council will, as I understand, be distributed to local authorities, who could then buy back in off the Museums Council if they so desired.

Mr McCausland:

The Museums Council’s long-term viability or otherwise is, certainly, one matter that must be examined. There is consensus in the Committee because of the effect on tourism and other benefits that museums bring.

The Deputy Chairperson:

I am sure that you have been informed, Minister, of the Committee’s intention to have an inquiry into museums. It has taken that decision. Therefore, it will, undoubtedly, return to that issue.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

I assume that the Museums Council will consider smaller, local museums as opposed to larger ones, such as the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and the Ulster American Folk Park. I am not sure about that.

Mr McCausland:

That is a good point. I am also unsure about that. There will be some synergy between them, though. The national museums should provide services to smaller museums because they have in-house expertise.

The Deputy Chairperson:

As a fairly new Committee, we see strange artwork that museums bring into the Building. They obviously have a fabulous collection.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

They have a collection of 1,200 high-quality paintings.

The Deputy Chairperson:

In the past, the Arts Council talked about living art. There are, obviously, fabulous collections out there. There is synergy — joined-up action. Everyone wants to protect their own wee empires. We should delve deeper into the issue to ascertain how everyone can benefit, rather than simply the few.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

The Department is happy to work with the Committee on that issue. Through working with the Assembly, we were able to have quality Northern Ireland artwork on display when the American visitors were here.

The Deputy Chairperson:

That was excellent.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

It irritates me that, at any time, 1,100 out of those 1,200 paintings are in storage; a maximum of only 100 of them are on public display at any time. Perhaps that serves to demonstrate why a Northern Ireland art gallery is required, which is not something that is planned for in the investment strategy for Northern Ireland.

The Deputy Chairperson:

It would be brilliant to have a national art gallery. Stormont is now very much a tourist attraction. However, the tour is slightly disappointing; more should be on show. Loads of space is available here in which other items could be exhibited, provided we get the proper security and protection. An idea has been floating about that the living artists could come here to display their works; however, we would not be selling such works for them. As the Minister said, it is all about co-operation.

I want to ask the Arts Council representatives about the creative industries seed fund. The Committee is in favour of creative industries, and has supported the Minister in securing funds for them. Will you outline what stage that fund is at, and whether any aspect of it needs a push? Furthermore, what is the speed of action for the fund? People often talk about monitoring and all sorts of bureaucracy that seems to block progress.

Ms McKinney:

As we reported at the last meeting, a consultation has been commissioned to conduct a quick piece of work on what the programme may entail. We considered the tenders last week, and the consultant is about to be appointed. Central Procurement Directorate is handling the tender process. The consultation should be completed in six weeks. We are hoping that, by July, we will have the bones of what form the programme will take.

The programme will take various forms of delivery, which may include immediate grants to some of the umbrella organisations that represent the sector, such as Craft Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Screen or the Northern Irish Music Industry Commission. There are also other ways of delivering it through mentoring, start-up grants, and so on. The consultation will collate the information and inform us on what form the funding mechanisms will take.

The Deputy Chairperson:

Perhaps the Committee could be kept apprised of developments.

Minister, at a previous meeting, the Committee asked you about sharing a paper on the collection of royalties. We also asked when you would be ready to apprise us of your discussions with your Scottish counterpart on that subject. Have you had any discussions with Gabridini or whatever his name is?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

Yes, I met Ms Fabiani, and we discussed a number of issues. Unfortunately though, she became unwell during the meeting and had to leave. Therefore, we did not get to talk about the collection of royalties. Although royalties have been discussed, the Department does not have a paper on that as yet. When a paper is drawn up, we will be happy to share it with the Committee.

The Deputy Chairperson:

I am not asking you how long a piece of string is, but when do you think that that paper will be ready? There is particular interest on that subject among Committee members.

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

I do not honestly know. A number of questions have been raised today. Perhaps the Committee Clerk will remind the private office of them, and I will ensure that they are followed up and acted upon.

The Deputy Chairperson:

OK. In summary, it has been a very interesting meeting. It has been informative, and, I hope, relaxing for everyone, apart from the ringing of the Division bell. Do members have any last-minute issues that they wish to raise?

Mr McCausland:

We tend to bring the Minister in to discuss specific issues, such as budgets. There is value in having a more wide-ranging discussion from time to time.

The Deputy Chairperson:

An away day, Nelson? Perhaps we could go to watch Manchester United and Chelsea in Moscow next Wednesday?

The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure:

I am not unhappy with that. The only caveat is that if the discussion is wide-ranging, there will be questions that I will not be able to answer. I would have to do that in writing later. If the discussion is about a specific matter, a brief is provided and it is easier to deal with the issues.

The Deputy Chairperson:

The last exercise proved useful in that we asked questions and we now have answers to them. We have been able to follow them up with supplementary questions.

Mr McCausland:

When I said wide-ranging, I meant that we would have the questions in advance, so that people are not coming into the discussion blind. We would not be restricted to one issue.

The Deputy Chairperson:

If you are agreeable, Minister, we can give you advance notice so that proper preparations are made. If members are content, we can discuss that at our next meeting. Thank you very much.

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