MD2107 London Borough of Culture

Type of decision: 
Mayoral decision
Date signed: 
04 April 2017
Decision by: 
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Executive summary

The Mayor made a manifesto commitment to establish a London Borough of Culture competition, like the European City of Culture, so that every year a different London Borough is the focus of a celebration of the city’s arts and culture. 

This decision seeks approval for expenditure up to a maximum of £3.537m of GLA funds from 2017/18 – 2020/21 to launch the competition, appoint two winners for 2019 and 2020 and fund further exemplary projects. Under cover of MD2045 the Mayor previously approved a budget of £154,000 for the London Borough of Culture competition for the initial phase of the project, as set out in section 1 of this decision.


The Mayor approves :

•    The receipt of grant funding or sponsorship from external funders for the programme activities set out in this report and associated expenditure.

•    The allocation and expenditure of up to £3.837m, (£3.537m GLA budget and £0.3m from City Bridge Trust funding) from 2017/18 to 2020/21, towards the programme activities set out in the main body of this report.

Part 1: Non-confidential facts and advice

Introduction and background

1.1     The Mayor has already approved a budget of £154,000 via MD2045 for the London Borough of Culture competition development phase.

1.2    This decision requests approval for the allocation and further expenditure of up to £3.537m, from 2017/18 to 2020/21, towards the following activities:

•    Two grant awards (2019 and 2020) of up to £1m each
•    A grant fund of £500,000 for smaller exemplary projects from other boroughs (not the winners)
•    Research and development costs
•    PR & media campaign and events
•    Marketing and communications
•    Partnership development
•    Evaluation framework

Vision & Objectives

1.3     London Borough of Culture is a competition that will celebrate the unique and distinctive character, people and heritage of London’s 32 boroughs – a vivid tapestry of distinctive neighbourhoods that makes London one of the most culturally vibrant cities in the world - a City for all Londoners.  This new award will deliver ambitious cultural programmes and throw a spotlight onto important and unusual social projects that are often under the radar, and encourage all Londoners to explore their neighbourhoods in new ways.  It will be underpinned by the active engagement of local residents as co-commissioners, placing culture at the heart of communities, inspiring new talent and creativity, and drawing visitors from across the city and beyond. 

1.4     The programme aims to recognise London Boroughs that:

•    identify the greatest ambition to deepen and broaden residents’ engagement with the arts;
•    use culture to transform people’s lives;
•    shine a spotlight on local areas that celebrate culture and communities;
•    deliver excellence and innovation in creative programming; and 
•    amplify the great work that takes place under the radar and in “every day” settings.


1.5    The timeline is as follows:

April    Letters to borough leaders and CEOs, from the Mayor, formally notifying them of the programme. 
May            Press conference and public launch of competition. 
September        Competition closes for applications. 
October        Evaluation of bids, by reference to weighted criteria 
December    Winners announced for 2019 and 2020 awards, as well as exemplary small projects in additional boroughs. 

Budget Overview

1.6    An investment of £2.5m is sought for two major awards in 2019 and 2020, plus a series of exemplary small development projects in a number of other boroughs. A further £913,000 (including contingency) is requested for services required to deliver the following: Partnership development (£120k); PR, Media and engaging Londoners campaign (£130k); Sponsorship/fundraising events (£109k); Borough engagement (£30k); Evaluation (£30k); and Marketing & Comms (£180k). 

Governance Structure

1.7     Leadership:
The programme sits within the Culture and Creative Industries Unit, but the programme is recognised strategically as supporting the wider GLA priorities. Senior cultural strategy and policy officers within the culture team are developing the competition, with support from an internal working group.

1.8     Working Group:
The Internal Working Group consists of officers representing key policy areas including Culture, Events, Communities and Social Policy, Health, Young people, Marketing, Comms, Transport,  Regeneration, Environment, Economic Development, Housing and Planning and also includes officers from TfL, London and Partners. The role of the group is to deliver shared corporate priorities; to promote the competition to a range of sectors and services; to support boroughs to form consortia to develop bids; to share intelligence and research; and to identify key potential partnerships within each sector and secure project resources.

1.9     Partners Board:
A Partners’ Board has been established for all the major investors in the programme. It consists of senior representatives from the strategic and funding partners that have committed to support the programme. These include Heritage Lottery Fund, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, City Bridge Trust, Historic England, National Trust, Clore Duffield Foundation, and Arts Council England. 

1.10     City of London Corporation:
The City of London Corporation will be a major champion and (in-kind) investor in the programme. They have brokered partnerships with major funders and cultural organisations, providing access to high profile venues for events, such as the Guildhall, and promotional opportunities through the City Information Centre. The City of London Corporation will be represented on the Partners’ Board, and will also chair a City Partnership Board for all the City of London Partners. An MOU will be developed with the City of London to formally establish this relationship, clearly setting out the working relationship and expectations in terms of third party leverage. 

1.11     Comms Group (TfL/L&P/GLA):
A broader Comms group with representatives from TfL, London and Partners, and the GLA MarComms team is supporting the wider campaign to promote the London Borough of Culture campaign. 

Major Events

1.12     Launch of competition:
A press conference will take place at City Hall in May to launch the competition. A bid has been submitted to the Mayor requesting his attendance. It is hoped that all the Deputy Mayors will be in attendance at the launch, along with strategic and funding partners. 

1.13     Announcement of winners:
The announcement of winners of the 2019 and 2020 awards, along with the smaller exemplary projects, will take place at an evening reception at City Hall in December 2017. 

1.14     Launch programmes:
A further two major events will take place in Autumn 2018 to launch the 2019 programme, and in Autumn 2019 to launch the 2020 programme. 

1.15     Winning Borough Visits:
Mayoral visits will take place at key moments throughout the winning boroughs during 2018, 2019 and 2020. 


1.16     The development of the competition has required four stages of procurement: PR & media; research; grants management and evaluation. These were approved by the mayor under cover of MD2045, but will continue over the next four years. The procurement of external suppliers, still to be appointed is as follows:

1.17    Grants management:
A grants management brief has been circulated to appoint a supplier to develop an online grant management system for the London Borough of Culture programme. The appointed supplier will work with the GLA to design an online portal which can be integrated into the London.Gov website, and enable users to access, input and retrieve information and data. The system will create a user-friendly portal for borough applicants to submit their bids, and the GLA team to assess and score in a consistent way. 

1.18     Evaluation framework:
Procurement is underway to appoint an evaluator to develop a standardised evaluation framework for the outputs of the competition over the four-year programme. This framework will support commissioners, applicants and partners to collect and measure data effectively.  This responds to the need for a streamlined approach to programme evaluation for a range of stakeholders. The framework will serve as a future blueprint for comparable evaluation initiatives across the cultural landscape. 


1.19     The programme is being led overall by a senior cultural strategy officer within the Culture & Creative Industries unit, with a senior policy officer dedicated to the London Borough Culture programme during the competition delivery stage and with additional support from the boroughs engagement officer. 

Match Funding

1.20    City Bridge Trust has offered £0.3m to be divided equally across the 2 major winning boroughs and the smaller grants fund. 

1.21     Discussions are taking place with Heritage Lottery Fund and Paul Hamlyn Foundation to explore major investment in the programme.  Further discussions are also underway with DCMS, Arts Council England, Bloomberg, Clore Duffield Foundation, Said Foundation, National Trust and Historic England. 

1.22     The GLA commercial team is exploring sponsorship opportunities to help reach the £2.5m match funding target. 

1.23     Applicant boroughs will be expected to provide a match funding commitment to the programme, in the region of 30% and this will include in kind and re-allocation of existing budgets, as well as new funding from trusts and foundations etc. Collaboration with City Bridge Trust and London Funders will enable boroughs to gain access to and explore new funding routes and opportunities across the city. 


1.24     Creative collaborations are also being established with major cultural institutions across the city, to create a bespoke cultural offer to winning boroughs as part of their London Borough of Culture programme. 

1.25     Partners include London Metropolitan Archives (Archive Partner); Museum of London; Barbican; BBC; British Library; Poetry Society; Penguin Random House; A New Direction and London Youth; What Next?; London Theatre Consortium; UK Theatres; London First; New West End Company and Regent Street Association. 

Competition Structure / Application, Assessment & Decision Making

1.26     The proposed investment will enable boroughs to apply for up to £1m to develop and deliver the London Borough of Culture programme. A funding prospectus is being developed to support boroughs through the application process. The funding prospectus will include: the aims, criteria and outcomes for the programme; details on what the grant will fund; how to prepare the submission; and how the applications will be assessed. 

1.27     The programme criteria have been developed with the Internal Working Group and have been approved by the Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Partners’ Board, to ensure it reflects the policy objectives across the GLA and the investment of major partners. 

1.28     The funding prospectus will be published in May when the programme is launched, and will be available in print and online. Further guidance with regard to FAQs will be produced as the programme develops and through the application period. FAQs will be regularly reviewed and circulated to applicants, throughout the process. The full application guidance will also be available on the online grants management portal. 

1.29     The structure of the application process is a one-stage bid. Applicants will have five months to develop and submit their applications. Applications will only be accepted from London Boroughs who should be the lead of a borough-wide consortium of partners drawn from across the arts, heritage and culture sectors plus key civic, community and business organisations based in the borough. All applicants must apply for the major award, and can highlight discrete projects within the overall bid which could be delivered as a stand-alone project, and which can be assessed against the same criteria. 

1.30     Applications will be uploaded onto the grants management portal, along with all supporting documentation. Assessment and scoring of applications will be undertaken by a panel of GLA officers, who will make recommendations on the winning boroughs. The GLA officer panel will include representatives from different directorates, to reflect the wider policy objectives. Applications will be evaluated and scored against weighted criteria, with moderation and discussion built into the evaluation process. The Partners’ Board will also have the opportunity to review the recommendations and input their views on the proposals. Recommendations will go through a report to CIB to approve the allocation of funding to the winning boroughs and a series of smaller exemplary projects in other boroughs.

1.31    The top two scoring borough applications will be awarded up to £1m each. In addition, it is proposed that a further £500k, will be made available, to up to six additional boroughs identified, again by reference to weighted criteria, for exemplary small development projects. 

Borough Support Programme
1.32     A borough engagement programme will take place from April to encourage boroughs to participate in the competition and support the bidding process. This will take place as follows:

1.33     A letter will be circulated to borough leaders and Chief Executives at the beginning of April, to notify boroughs of the programme timeline in advance of the public launch in May. 

1.34     Specialist advisers will be matched with borough applicants to support bid development such as facilitating cross-council discussions/partnerships, designing the look and feel of the programme, generating creative ideas for the programme, sharing experience of developing similar projects of scale etc.  The budget for this was approved by the mayor under cover of MD2045. Funds will be made available to support boroughs to access specialist support for developing applications. This will be managed by a third party organisation. This will be finalised via a further decision in due course. 

1.35     A half day workshop/seminar for boroughs to find out more about the programme, hear from inspirational speakers.

1.36     A series of one-to-one area based surgeries for applicant boroughs offered during the bidding process. 

1.37     A major event hosted by City Of London to present a range of inspiring projects from people. 



Objectives and expected outcomes

2.1     Investment in the London Borough of Culture will deliver:

•    A two-year programme of high quality creative interventions across the city, which celebrate culture and communities, encourage participation and leadership, and amplify the value of arts, culture and heritage in transforming people’s lives. 
•    Leverage of up £2.5m potential match funding through partnerships with major funders and investors
•    Partnerships with the City of London Corporation and major cultural organisations across the city to create a bespoke cultural offer to the winning boroughs
•    Partnerships with business, community and educational organisations to develop new collaborations across boroughs
•    High profile PR and media campaign, including a press conference and launch in May 2017, an evening reception event to announce winners in December 2017 and programme launches in Autumn 2018 and Autumn 2019. 
•    Development of a standardised evaluation framework for the competition over the four-year programme.

Equality comments

3.1    Under Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, as a public authority, the Mayor of London must have ‘due Regard’ of the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation as well as to advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people who have a protected characteristic and those who do not.

3.2    The London Borough of Culture competition will be open to all London Boroughs to apply for and to receive grant funding if their application proves to be successful. The evaluation of all applications will be fair and transparent and scored and evaluated to the same criteria, giving all applicants an equal opportunity to access the grant funding outlined in the main body of this report.

3.3    All London councils will also be made aware of the development fund that will be available to Boroughs for support with their bid writing and application to the competition. This funding will be distributed fairly and openly to all those who wish to apply for this fund.

Other considerations

4.1    The main risks and issues are detailed in the table below: 


Risk description

Mitigation / Risk response

Current probability (1-4)

Current impact (1-4)


GLA Risk owner



Funding initiatives that

are badly run, that are

significantly scaled down or that are cancelled risk

the capital’s reputation


GLA officers have fully scoped the programme structure through the Internal Working Group, and with external partners and stakeholders.




Culture Team


Ability to raise funding


Officers are working closely with the

commercial team on

approaches to business

partners. Significant investment has already been committed by major funders and  further discussions are in

progress with other major funders and partners.

Borough proposals will need to demonstrate that they are scalable, and boroughs will also be expected to fundraise towards the programme.  




Culture Team


Artistic quality / quality control / Readiness for delivery


Officers have substantial experience of delivering high quality large scale

programmes (e.g.

Lumiere, Cultural

Olympiad). Specialist advisors will be matched with applicants to ensure programmes are developed in line with the ambition. Bids will be assessed on both the quality of the artistic programme and the quality of experience for communities.




Culture Team


Financial mis-management                 


Officers adhere to

internal financial management and

procurement processes as set out in the Contracts and Funding Code and Financial

Regulations. Payment is

only made on achievement of





Culture Team

4.2    Links to Mayoral strategies and priorities 

The London Borough of Culture programme will deliver against the following Mayoral commitments:

•    A City for All Londoners, wherein culture is seen as the golden thread, key to our future success, both for integrating and strengthening communities and supporting more liveable and successful places. 

•    Culture Manifesto, with a focus on increasing access to culture for all Londoners.

•    The Mayor’s vision for Healthy Streets, which are more welcoming to people and encourage them to make active and sustainable travel choices, for example by contributing to the healthy streets aspiration of ‘things to see and do’.  

•    With its focus on social inclusion and participation, creativity, and physical activity, it will be an important tool in helping to deliver two of the proposed priorities for the Mayor’s Health Inequalities Strategy: improving mental health and wellbeing and promoting healthy lifestyles.

4.3    In terms of economic development, the programme will help us work with businesses to improve productivity and growth. We want all Londoners to progress and reach their full potential and to ensure that London’s businesses can access the skills they need to succeed.  

4.4    The programme will provide opportunities for linking in with the London Plan’s strategic policies for supporting London’s night time economy and its diverse range of arts, cultural, and entertainment enterprises and the cultural, social and economic benefits they offer to its residents, workers and visitors.  

4.5    This investment represents more than the sum of its parts and will enable the GLA to lever insignificant additional investment for this programme. It will strengthen London’s cultural offer, amplify the excellent work that is often under the radar, and will increase media coverage over the next four years. 

4.6    An internal Working Group has already been established and consists of GLA officers representing key policy areas as referenced in 1.8 above. 

Financial comments

5.1    Approval is being sought to spend up to £3.857m to fund the LBOC programme. The estimated net cost to the GLA will be £3.537m as £0.3m has been secured from City Bridge Trust towards the programme.

5.2    It is anticipated this expenditure will occur over four financial years and will be taken from the Culture Programme budget. The breakdown of this is as follows:

•    £824,000       2017-18
•    £1,293,000    2018-19
•    £1,018,000    2019-20
•    £402,000       2020-21

Planned delivery approach and next steps



Letter to borough leaders (following budget decision)

April 2017

Grants management & evaluation framework contracts procured

End of April 2017

Funding prospectus published

May 2017

Press conference and official Mayoral launch

May 2017

London Borough of Culture competition opens

May 2017

Borough engagement programme (specialist advice, workshop & surgeries)

April to June 2017

Deadline for borough applications

25 September 2017

Evaluation and scoring

October 2017

Recommendations and approval of grants through CIB

Oct to Nov 2017

Announcement of winners

December 2017

2019 Key moments (to be attended by Mayor)


2019 Key moments (to be attended by Mayor)


Exemplar projects 2019/2020 (to be attended by Mayor)      


Evaluation complete


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