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

What are the options for devolved governance?

Read our practical guide for local authorities considering the transfer of their archive service into a Trust or other form of devolved governance:

Alternative governance models (PDF, 0.12MB)

These two guides also provide a useful introduction to different models of devolved governance:

Spin outs

Spin-out is the shorthand term used for the conversion of an in-house service into a social enterprise, mutual, charitable trust, local authority trading company or a transfer to community management. Spin-outs do not include shared services or outsourcing to an existing private or third sector provider.

The guidance below aims to support local authority archive services, and their managers and funders, to make informed and sustainable decisions about the process of spinning out.

The guidance outlines different models for service spin-outs and their implications for archive services. We have designed this to be practical and user-friendly. It includes case studies of spin-outs that are in the process of being launched and refers to legislation which is being drafted (translating the new EU directive on procurement into national law).

We will update the guidance from time to time and we will draw on the experiences of authorities setting up new spin-outs and of the spin-outs themselves.

In a spin: Guidance on spinning out local authority archive services (PDF, 1.38MB)

How do I make decisions about devolved governance for my service?

Devolving governance while ensuring sustainable service delivery is a complex process.

This guide can help local authorities through the decision making process and flag up key legal, financial and operational issues that should be addressed:

How can The National Archives help?

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


This page contains PDF files. See plug-ins and file formats for help in accessing these file types.