Seven of those taking sabbaticals through until June will then be made redundant and will not be returning to the Arts Council.

Rubber stamp and ink

Almost £500,000 has been earmarked in Arts Council England’s (ACE) 2012 accounts to cover 20 staff sabbaticals, costing the funder an average of £24,400 each. AP’s Freedom of Information request to the Arts Council has revealed that nine staff are taking paid sabbaticals between January and June this year, seven of whom will not be returning to the organisation and are due to be made redundant on 30 June as part of ACE’s programme of cuts.

Although ACE staff entitlement to sabbaticals varies depending on their contracts, those with ten years service are able to apply for up to six months paid time out to “acquire new skills or knowledge to the benefit of themselves and the Arts Council.” AP asked ACE why the sabbatical applications of the seven staff due to leave the organisation were rubber-stamped, given that they would not be in a position to use the benefits of their sabbaticals in their future work for ACE. A spokesperson said: “Staff on sabbatical use their contacts, skills and expertise to help arts and cultural organisations achieve their aims and this is of direct benefit to those organisations and their audiences. Since this work will also help to fulfil one or more of the Arts Council’s strategic goals for arts and culture, as set out in our 10-year plans… it is also of benefit to the Arts Council.”

As ACE continues with its restructuring, the role held by Andrea Stark, the former Chief Exec of ACE East & South East whose controversial sabbatical arrangements mean that she will scoop a severance package estimated to be worth well over £100,000, has been “phased out early”. It has now emerged that Moira Sinclair, formerly Executive Director for London, has already had a 4.3% salary increase to recognise her having taking over Stark’s responsibility for the East & South East Area. ACE had previously denied that Stark’s sabbatical had any financial implications for the organisation.