On this page, we provide guidance for local authorities and their staff to make decisions so that their archives and records are sustainably managed.

New models of governance and management

Local authorities are exploring alternative ways to deliver their services, including their archives. They are looking at how to give better value for money, become more accountable and ultimately better serve their communities.

This can include options of devolved management or governance. Devolved governance can take many different forms, from contracting out elements of the service, to placing the whole service into trust with only initial investment from the local authority.

What is best for archives?

Archives vary in their collections and the visions for the service they should deliver to their communities. There isn't a single right way of running an archive service, but when considering devolved governance, the legal and operational structure needs to be appropriate for the collections, the user community and the legal environment. 

Also affecting archives and records are the specific legal responsibilities of the local authority to:

  • manage the information appropriately (including compliance with the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts)
  • care for and provide access to specific classes of archives
  • ensure the sustainable care of all the archives and records for future generations

These responsibilities remain with the local authority, even if governance is devolved.

Guidance on devolved governance

Alternative governance models (PDF, 0.12MB)

Spin outs

The National Archives has issued the second edition of its guidance designed to help the archive sector make informed decisions about the future of their archive services and collections.

In recent years, the trend for heritage, library and archive services to convert to charitable trusts, social enterprises, mutuals, local authority trading companies or to transfer to community management has increased. This conversion is commonly known as 'spinning out'.

Our guidance - In a spin - outlines different models for service spin-outs and their implications for archive services. It also highlights key regulatory considerations and alternative options. The guidance stresses the importance of considering what is best for individual archives and includes case studies of spin-outs.

The second edition includes revised sections on the implications of the new EU procurement regulations, as well as guidance about business rates and VAT. The revision was carried out by Activist, who were commissioned to research and write the original guidance, with support from Winckworth Sherwood

In a spin: Guidance on spinning out local authority archive services (PDF, 1.42MB)

How can The National Archives help?

Contact The National Archives' head of engagement for help with assessing and developing alternative governance options for archives.


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