Four-year funding contracts, a tiered framework for NPOs and a ring-fenced budget for individual artists are all on the table as Arts Council England consults on its plans.

Photo of artist
ACE proposes a separate budget line within Grants for the Arts for individual artists

An end to “one size fits all” funding agreements for Arts Council England’s (ACE) National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) is at the heart of a new set of proposal for funding the arts from 2018.

A consultation process has now begun to enable the arts, museums and libraries sectors to have their say on this and a range of other measures that would see some elements of arts funding in England restructured.

Under the proposals, the length of funding agreements would be extended. Four-year contracts would be offered to all NPOs from 2018-22, even though ACE’s next settlement from government will only cover the period 2018-2020.

ACE expects to continue funding its portfolio at broadly the same level of overall investment as now, but plans to recognise the differing scales and purposes of NPOs for the first time. It acknowledges that the current approach presents “considerable challenges to smaller organisations”.

Different application processes, funding agreements, and monitoring and reporting requirements would be introduced, depending on the level of annual grant funding organisations receive. ACE would lower its expectations of those receiving less than £250k a year, while those receiving more than £1m would face higher demands. Organisations funded at this level would be required to demonstrate how they could “play an active leadership role within the art and culture sector” and more would be asked of them in terms of reporting.

A new category of ‘service organisations’ would be created to deliver specific activities that support the arts and culture sector.

The consultation also presents proposals for the integration of museums into the national portfolio and the amalgamation of the Major Partner Museums (MPMs) budget with the arts budget. 

Under new proposals, museums and library sector organisations would be eligible to apply for strategic funds and Lottery-funded Grants for the Arts; schemes that have been closed to them since responsibility for museums and libraries policy was transferred to ACE in 2011. ACE hopes this would stimulate “healthy competition for funding” and “greater collaboration between arts organisations, museums and libraries”.

Capital funding would remain ring fenced for arts organisations under current criteria, which prioritise the “consolidation and improvement of the existing arts infrastructure” over significant expansion or new buildings.

More support for individual artists is proposed, in the form of a separate budget line within the Grants for the Arts programme specifically for artists and creative individuals. Also under consideration is “a simple and flexible grants programme” supporting artists at an early stage of their careers.

The criteria for Grants for the Arts funding would be broadened to enable ACE to be “flexible enough to respond to new ways that people make, experience, share and consume art and culture”. It gives examples of new activities that might be eligible for funding, including prototyping new cultural and creative industry products and services; artistic or cultural games; and digital content about arts and culture, including educational content and documentaries.

Full details of the consultation, together with a message from ACE Chief Executive Darren Henley and a synopsis of ACE’s progress towards its ten-year strategy, ‘Great Art and Culture for Everyone’ are published on ACE’s website.

ACE is inviting responses to the consultation until 20 March 2016, and will be hosting a number of briefing events and workshops for funded organisations and individuals across the country in February and March.

Author(s): 
Liz Hill