Strengthening governance

On this page, we provide guidance for local authorities and their staff to make decisions that ensure 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 trusts with only initial investment from the local authority.

What is best for archives?

Archives vary in their collections as well as 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.


We have issued the third edition of our 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 local authority 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 ‘In a spin’ guidance 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 both spin-outs and services which have ‘spun back’ under local authority control.

The third edition includes several revised sections, plus guidance on business rates and VAT. The revision was carried out by Activist, who were commissioned to research and write the original guidance.

In a spin: Guidance on spinning out local authority archive services (PDF, 2.5MB)

Additional guidance on devolved governance

Alternative governance models (PDF, 0.12MB)

How can we help?

Contact the Archives Sector Development department for help with assessing and developing alternative governance options for archives.