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Walsall Council achieve the best savings solution from V4 Services via ESPO's Consultancy Services Lot 7 (Leisure, Culture and Tourism)

Published on 27/04/2018


The Requirement:

Opened in February 2000, The New Art Gallery, Walsall, is an iconic cultural asset in the West Midlands with an international reputation that is owned and operated by Walsall Council. Reflective of the national austerity agenda, the Council have had to make very difficult choices, and in 2017, invited V4 Services Ltd via ESPO framework 664 to understand and identify the options for a long-term strategy that would allow the Gallery to continue to thrive as a key social and cultural asset whilst also reflecting the huge financial pressure the Council faces.

The Council needed a comprehensive review and options appraisal of The New Art Gallery. The Council currently operates the gallery at a net revenue subsidy of £825,000 per annum - after central and property costs, and needed to find a solution to reduce this subsidy over a period aligned to the current Medium Term Financial Plan.

The Council was required to identify and deliver almost £200,000 of savings to the New Art Gallery budget over the four years to 2020/2021 and realised that the current model of operation was not sustainable in that context. Having worked with V4 Services before on a range of leisure and cultural services projects, the Council re-engaged V4 Services via ESPO framework 664 to carry out a detailed options appraisal. The objective was to identify the most sustainable future operating model for the New Art Gallery which had the potential to deliver the required savings whilst also looking at the existing governance, funding, staffing and premises arrangements, as well as carrying out some market research, benchmarking against other similar galleries and latent demand analysis.

The Solution:

V4 Services engaged with all key stakeholders involved in the current operation and funding of the New Art Gallery, including Arts Council England (ACE), who part fund the Gallery as one of their National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs). Using detailed stakeholder, financial and benchmarking analysis, V4 Services reviewed the current financial, operational and customer models against a range of potential future delivery models for the New Art Gallery. These options included retaining the status quo, transferring the Gallery into an existing trust, transfer into a new single management body and partnering with a Higher Education institution. Key to each of these potential outcomes was that the assets (the building and collections) would continue to be owned by the Council and that the core principles of free access, social and cultural development and access to learning were protected.

Working with the Council, V4 Services developed a framework to assess each option, providing a detailed report of both the current delivery model, the options considered and the recommended course of action. This was supported by a detailed Market Engagement Exercise, reflecting best practise procurement methodology, to ensure the review included insight into the potential opportunities available in the market .

The Results:

Whilst the final appraisal of options provided a clear recommendation, in accordance with best practise, V4 Services carried out a full market engagement exercise and provided the Council with a complete market insight report. A preferred solution has now been identified and the Council are working hard to commence early implementation stages.

V4 Services remain on hand to support the Council with discussions and negotiations and to remain a critical friend and neutral party throughout.

"Throughout their time supporting Walsall Council, V4 Services have always delivered high quality reports with clear and concise recommendations. V4 services always remain on hand and are willing to provide the hands-on support to carry out these recommendations, and remain highly communicative and diligent throughout the process.

Officers highly value the work V4 Services have provided to us in relation to the New Art gallery and we are optimistic that their thorough work and comprehensive report, as well as their early support in further negotiations will enable us to achieve the savings targets we are required to deliver over the next four years.

At a time when there are large amounts of pressure on Local Government to identify quite significant savings, particularly on those services which are non-statutory, V4 Services showed a tremendous amount of knowledge and insight into this area and how to maximise efficiencies and generate additional revenue, in not just the Art gallery, but across a range of leisure and cultural, non-statutory provisions."

-  Ben Percival, Sport & Leisure Service Manager, Walsall Council

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