Wednesday, 20 February 2008

MLA Yorkshire to end operations

MLA Yorkshire has announced today that it will be ceasing to operate at the end of 2008. This is because of funding cuts by its main funder, the MLA Board which are a result of Government cuts to funding for the MLA. The Board itself is being restructured and moved to Birmingham while small regional teams will replace the regional agencies.

Chair of MLA Yorkshire, Professor John Tarrant, said: "This is not just a sad day for museums, libraries and archives but also a sad day for Yorkshire. The staff of MLA Yorkshire have done an excellent job providing a strong voice for museums, libraries and archives in the region. They have championed the work that supports our communities and helped the cultural sector play a leading role in the revitalising of our region's economy.

"Closing MLA Yorkshire will impact on local authorities that have looked to us for guidance, small organisations we have supported such as voluntary museums and the public who have benefited from our work to improve the sector for users.

"Every museum, library and archive in our region will lose as a result of this decision. They will have less of a voice in Yorkshire and the Humber than they would have in the devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland."

MLA Chairman Mark Wood said: "The Board has taken the decision that only radical reorganisation will sustain a stronger, more focused MLA working nationally and regionally, and making better use of public money. We believe that the costs of nine independent agencies, concentrating only on museums, libraries and archives, are unsustainable. "

MLA’s Chief Executive Roy Clare said: "This is a tremendously challenging programme of change. We will continue to work closely with the nine independently-constituted agencies and with local government and regional development agencies to plan for a unified MLA. We aim to introduce substantial improvements, while making savings quickly within the looming financial year. We will retain flexibility to ensure that the MLA's emerging shape and capacities are compatible with the results of the ongoing DCMS review of the regions."

This is deeply disapointing news for the sector in Yorkshire. MLA nationally has been seen by many as having lost the plot and failing to speak up effectively for libraries. The regional agencies had their problems but they did retain their contact with the musuums, libraries and archives domains while at the same time being an advocate and support at a regional level. We are a diverse and fragmented profession and a single regional agency was of benefit. It was also the only evidence of central Government support for the infrastructure that is meant to support the Information Society. We are entitled to feel that we have been left in the lurch by a Government Greport highlighted the problems of a lack of understanding of what information was all about in our schools, colleges and workplaces but it seems that should be extended to Downing Street as well.

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