The Culture, Media and Sport select committee of the House of Commons is to conduct an inquiry into the work of Arts Council England. The inquiry will look over the organisation’s scale, scope and remit, as well as the current weighting of its funding towards arts organisations in London.
The development appears to have the potential to disrupt ACE’s work over the coming months, as the committee also states that it plans to examine ‘the economic and artistic criteria that underpin funding decisions’.
Applications for ACE National Portfolio Funding for 2015-18 opened on 7 January and close on 17 March, with successful bids due to be announced in July 2014. The committee has set a deadline for written submissions of 24 February and will conclude after that. How ACE would cope with criticisms or recommendations so soon before, or even during, its deliberation on funding allocations while sticking to its current timetable is unclear.
The select committee website reads: ‘The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has decided to conduct a general investigation into the work of Arts Council England, including its scope, scale and remit. We wish to examine the economic and artistic criteria that underpin funding decisions. Furthermore, we seek views on whether the geographical distribution of funding is fair and the justification for the current weighting of this towards London.’
A statement released by ACE said: ‘The Arts Council welcomes the opportunity that the recently announced Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry offers to discuss investment in arts and culture, and the complexities of achieving a regional balance in this funding.’
The imbalance of ACE funding was highlighted last autumn by a report, Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital, which laid bare some exceptional disparities in ACE funding.
The committee may also decide to investigate whether the most recent policy announcements by ACE are consistent with the ‘additionality principle’ which divides Lottery and grant-in-aid budgets, a policy which was brought in under the last Conservative administration when the Lottery, including its link with good causes, was established.
Alan Davey, ACE’s chief executive, said: ‘There are valuable and varied accounts of the arts and culture landscape across the country. We hope that the Committee receive a range of submissions that show this diversity of experience and opinion.
‘Arts Council England’s remit is to support great art for everyone. The arts ecology of England is complex and interrelated and there are inherent and long standing challenges in achieving our ambition – in reaching all parts of the country, rural and urban, cities and the suburbs and in reaching people from many different communities. To do this well, we need a strong and nationally connected arts infrastructure in our capital city as much as we need an equally strong and vibrant arts infrastructure in the regions.
‘We look forward to discussing the detail of our investment criteria, and reflecting the scale of our ambition in delivering great art for everyone across England to the committee.’