Arts Council England (ACE) is this year budgeting £10.3m for ‘strategic funding’ of projects for which there is neither an application procedure nor a tendering process.
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‘Strategic funding’ grants being paid out of ACE’s Grant in Aid (GiA) from Government are budgeted to reach £10.3m this year - a 67% increase on the £6.2m reported for 2012/13. The budget represents the remainder of ACE’s Grant-in-Aid allocation after allowing for its own administration costs and core funding grants to National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs), Museums and Libraries. ACE has confirmed that it does not invite applications for this money, nor does it insist that any opportunities funded from this budget are put out to tender.
A spokesperson described ACE’s GiA strategic funds as “funds that we use when we have identified new opportunities or platforms that we feel would benefit from funding… were we to decide to develop a particular strand of work that we felt sat within this category of ‘new opportunities’ then we would look to relevant partners to deliver this pilot or put out a call for interested parties… It is part of the Arts Council’s role to identify these opportunities and to be flexible enough to develop new partnerships as and when the opportunity arises.” The availability of these funding opportunities, which are open to private companies as well as registered charities, is not publicised, but according to an ACE spokesperson, “we do of course make mention of their availability in our reports.”
ACE has been unable to provide any information in response to AP’s request for details of such ‘opportunities’, nor the names of the ‘relevant partners’ with whom funding agreements have been established. No list is available to reveal who has received the money or how much they have been paid, and the data made public as part of ACE’s commitment to transparency fails to specify which organisations have been made awards from this fund. AP has requested clarification but has so far been refused information about the recipients of the awards and told this “…would require a manual cross-referencing of lists that includes over 1,000 grants” and warned that any Freedom of Information request to uncover information about them or the amounts of money they have received, is also likely to be turned down on the grounds of the cost of retrieving the data: “…you are free to make an FOI request with this information, although I anticipate that it would exceed the cost of compliance as outlined under Section 12 of FOIA.” AP has submitted a request under Freedom of Information in a further attempt to find out more about the allocation of Strategic GiA funding.