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In last week’s edition of Arts Professional, a group of Chief Executives of National Portfolio Organisations expressed their frustrations to Arts Council England about increasingly onerous reporting requirements. Here is ACE's response. 

Image or ACE webpage with headline Resources and reporting

We appreciate that the cultural sector is dealing with an extremely challenging environment at the moment, including those organisations in receipt of regular funding through our National Portfolio. We value hearing from all parts of the sector, and want to respond to the letter from NPO Chief Executives, published on 22 January 2024. 
 
We welcome the detailed points raised in the letter, and the offer to work together to explore them further, and we’d be very happy to do that. Please be reassured that sharing feedback and entering into dialogue with the Arts Council is not something to be cautious of. 

It won’t harm your relationship with us, or your future funding chances. If any of the authors of the letter want to reach out to us to discuss the points you raise, we would be pleased to hear from you.

Developing our understanding of the sector

We know that our requirements can feel demanding but underpinning them is the need to ensure we are fulfilling our duty as guardians of public money and delivering on our commitments to government. We need to ensure the investment we are making is delivering the returns for communities across the country in the way we have agreed with organisations. 

The data from this reporting also helps us continue to developing our understanding of the cultural sector and its needs, so we can best develop policy to respond to these needs, and advocate for further investment.  
 
We’re also committed to making our processes simpler, both in the short term, medium term and longer term. We might not be able to address everything you find challenging within this portfolio period, but understanding more about the issues you are facing will help us do what we can now, and to build better processes in the future.

We’re listening

In the hope of providing some immediate clarification and relief, we thought we should reiterate the following:

1.    While organisations do need to use our template spreadsheets once a year when submitting new plans to us, they can use alternative ways to report to their boards throughout the year, if they prefer.

2.    Boards don’t need to review all the Investment Principles activity at every meeting; they can look at different ones over the annual meeting cycle.

3.    PwC are continuing to respond to feedback to improve Illuminate.

4.    Our Transforming Governance programme is live and providing sector-led sessions to support the vital role boards and executives do in overseeing and leading their organisations. 
 
We’re listening, we’re grateful for all feedback we receive, and we want to talk. We continually work to make improvements to our processes, and we will continue to do so.

Arts Council England
 artscouncil.org.uk/
@ace_national

Comments

Firstly, I am somewhat relieved that ACE is finally getting the message about reporting, requirements of Trustees, Illuminate etc. But there are just two points on their response above: we receive money from non ACE funds, that are also Public Monies, and they don't require the onerous and ill-thought out reporting, amount of reporting, so this really can't be an excuse for the way ACE has chosen to ask its NPO's to comply. Secondly "The data from this reporting also helps us continue to developing our understanding of the cultural sector and its need". This can be done much more effectively by talking with us - not just asking us to comply with this that and the other, but a real dialogue. That should be on the agenda for every relationship manager. After all the relationship should be two -way.