• Share on Facebook
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Linkedin
  • Share by email
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Linkedin
  • Share by email

ACE is one of at least 30 public bodies, including Tate, V&A and the Museum of London, to withdraw from Stonewall's workplace Diversity Champions programme in recent years.

Stonewall UK group marching at the gay London Pride event 2011.

Fæ via Wikimedia Commons

Arts Council England (ACE) left Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme last October over concerns it was not getting value for money from its subscription fee, the funding body has confirmed.

It had been a member of the workplace scheme since 2008 and, over the last 10 years of its membership, paid between £2,000 and £3,000 a year to access guidance and feedback from Stonewall on issues affecting LGBTQ+ people.

The quango said it had maintained its membership for the resources it provided in supporting the inclusion and representation of LGBTQ+ colleagues, but following a review, decided it was no longer getting value for money from the scheme.


Organisations that are Diversity Champions qualify for Stonewall’s workplace equality index, which it describes as “the definitive benchmarking tool for employers to measure their progress on lesbian, gay, bi and trans inclusion in the workplace”.

ACE noted that it had not participated in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index since 2014 and had not paid the charity for any consultancy or training services since then. 

Last year, an independent review into diversity and inclusion found that ACE had experienced an "unresolved breakdown" in the relationship between staff with pro-trans and gender-critical views. The review followed ACE's controversial withdrawal of funding to an organisation accused of being anti-trans, which resulted in a high-profile employment tribunal involving a former employee Denise Fahmy.

In the wake of the report's findings, ACE has revealed it is considering establishing a gender advisory board and is also reviewing the long-term future of its Race Advisory and Disability Advisory Groups.

A statement given to The Times by ACE in March about its involvement with Stonewall said: “We are committed to being an organisation where every staff member feels they belong. Having access to a range of resources published by external partners supports us in achieving this.”


The arm's length national development agency is the latest organisation to confirm it has not renewed its membership as a Diversity Champion after 30 public bodies left the scheme last year, including the last two remaining Whitehall-based organisations, according to data collected by the TaxPayers' Alliance.

Liz Truss first urged government departments to abandon the scheme when she was Equalities Minister in 2021 over concerns of value for money. The previous year, Boris Johnson's government scrapped plans drawn up under Theresa May to allow people to change their legal gender by self-identifying as male or female.

Minister for Women and Equalities Kemi Badenoch is understood to have instructed government departments to withdraw from the scheme last year, saying she was "shocked " by the amount of public money it receives. She later told MPs during a debate on gender recognition: “We have engaged with numerous LGBT groups, but the fact of the matter is that many of them support self-ID.

"That is not this government’s policy. Stonewall do not decide the law of this country."

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which funds ACE, told Arts Professional it left the scheme in September 2022 after a review found it no longer provided value for money.

'Value-for-money test'

According to TaxPayers' Alliance research based on Freedom of Information requests, £1,107,868 was paid to Stonewall through taxpayer-funded organisations in 2022/23, including £530,482 through the Diversity Champions scheme, £71,071 through events, conferences, and workshops, and £503,225 through grants.

At least 165 public bodies were listed as members in 2022/23, including Arts Council Wales (ACW), which ranked as the seventh biggest public body donor to the scheme, paying £6,750 in membership fees as well as £3,750 for recruitment adverts and a training workshop.

In addition to the Diversity Champions scheme, which ACW has been a member of since 2016, the funding body also awarded Stonewall Cymru a lottery-funded grant for £149,500 in 2022/23. National Museum Wales is also a member, paying £2,575 in 2022/23, as is Creative Scotland, which paid £3,090 and a further £900 for three tickets to the Stonewall Scotland Workplace conference.

English Heritage paid Stonewall £3,162 in 2022-23 and is still a member of the scheme, while Historic England paid £2,500 but has not confirmed its current status, telling Arts Professional it was having ongoing internal discussions about its membership to several workplace schemes based on a value-for-money test.

Tate paid £2,500 to be a diversity champion in 2022/23 but now no longer lists itself as a member, while former participants of the scheme V&A and Museum of London did not pay anything in 2022/23. The Royal Ballet and Opera, which receives ACE's largest individual investment, is also a member but was not included in the research, which focused solely on public bodies.

Stonewall’s list of Diversity Champions has been password-protected since 2021, and the organisation said in a statement: “As with any programme of this nature, members come and go all the time, and we do not routinely comment on arrivals or departures.”

"We are proud of our long-running Diversity Champions programme, which helps employers build more welcoming environments for current and future LGBTQ+ employees."

A spokesperson for Arts Council Wales said: "We are committed to creating a more inclusive workplace, and our work is guided by the Welsh Government’s LGBTQ+ Action Plan.

"This scheme supports us in advancing gender equality in the workplace and helps us to make sure that LGBTQ+ employees are given any support they need by our organisation, and that we provide a safe and respectful working environment."

A headshot of Mary Stone
Arts Professional welcomes readers' opinions. Please ensure your comments observe our policy.


Good news. Stonewall have been providing inaccurate information in their training and information packs - focusing in the law as they would like it to be rather than the actual law. A number of organisations have found themselves in legal difficulties after following Stonewall advice, which is why so many are leaving their discredited pyramid scheme.