Following a halt in the procurement process, ACE now expects its new system for assessing the quality of artistic work to be up and running in 2019. 

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Photo: (CC BY 2.0) Photo by: Oxfam

Plans for Arts Council England’s (ACE) controversial Quality Metrics scheme to be adopted by all of its larger National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) appear to have been kicked into the long grass after the procurement process for a supplier to deliver the scheme stalled.

The system, which will attempt to quantify the value of artistic quality, was due to be launched this month, following the announcement of a successful bidder to deliver it. But the process was suspended, having apparently failed to abide by European procurement legislation.

ACE has now told NPOs that it expects a quality evaluation framework to be in place by 1 April 2019, but remains tight lipped about the reasons for the delay.

It is not clear whether ACE is having second thoughts about the potential value of the much disliked £2.7m initiative, or simply that the procurement process will have to be re-run to meet public sector purchasing rules.

All of ACE’s new NPOs in bands 2 and 3 – which receive revenue grants worth more than £250k a year – had been told that taking part in the scheme would be mandatory. The delay means they will not have to factor Quality Metrics evaluations into the first year of their business plans.

Participation in the scheme will no longer be a condition of funding for 2018/19, although ACE anticipates that these NPOs “will be required to use it as a condition for the remaining three years of their funding agreement”.

In an email to NPOs, ACE’s Director, Funding Programmes, Jane Dawson, pledged to keep them “updated on further developments”.

Liz Hill