Arts Council England (ACE ) has received a mixed appraisal from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in a new report into the funding of fifteen major Lottery projects. While acknowledging that ACE had acted upon previous criticism, the Committee identified several areas where action still needed to be taken. Particular criticism was reserved for the lack of reach of the projects.
The Committee voiced concern about the socio-economic mix of attenders, noting, “audiences remain disproportionately drawn from particular sections of society.” Additionally, data collection methods were criticised: “It took ACE some months to provide us with this data so we infer that the Council is not routinely collecting and monitoring the diversity of audiences.”
A spokesperson for ACE acknowledged that there had been a delay in responding to the Committee’s requests for data but robustly defended the Council’s data collection activities, specifically pointing to the recently published report into the attendance and participation of culturally diverse audiences. Peter Hewitt, Chief Executive of ACE said, “Most of these projects date back to 1996. We have acted on all the PAC recommendations made since then. Almost all of the fifteen projects considered by the PAC are a fantastic success with the public.” The report acknowledges that much has been done to improve project management since the previous report and refers to the amalgamation of the Regional Arts Boards and ACE as a factor in helping to ensure fairer distribution of Lottery funding nationally in future. Among amendments to Lottery funding procedures since 2000 are the staging of the funding for new projects and the development of a more strategic approach to supporting projects nationally.