ACE Spending The Money

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Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Michael Devney

Wading through an Arts Council England Annual Review is just the sort of thing to make you yearn for the Christmas holidays, exciting reading they are not. So, with thoughts of sticky pudding in our heads and a song in our heart we, here in TheLab™, will cut through the 158 pages of mind numbing back slapping, obscure numbers and words like "emolument" to bring you, our dear readers, the facts.

Throughout the entire annual review that ACE is required to put out each year there are about 150 pages of nonsense and 8 pages of, depending on your point of view, interesting information.

ACE receives the vast majority of its money from the UK Government via the Department of Culture Media and Sport. Financial years being what they are the numbers represent 1st April 2006 to 1st April 2007. We can only imagine that back in 3,300 BC when accounting was invented (allegedly) they didn't like adding up numbers in the winter!

Numbers Game

The total amount received by ACE in, so-called, "Grant in Aid" funding was (GBP) £428.4Million (USD $874.9Million) up from £409.6Million (USD $836.5Million) for the previous year.

ACE currently employs 872 members of staff across England and these staff members absorb £25.2Million (USD $51.5Million) in salaries. This is down by just over £400,000 (USD $816,980) from the previous year so ACE must have been shedding some weight in the tea boy department.

They also handed over £2.1Million (USD $4.3Million) in National Insurance Contributions (this pays for the NHS and state pensions and benefits in the UK), £4.7million (USD $9.7Million) in employer pension contributions and £1.8Million (USD $3.7Million) bringing in "Agency Staff".

It is strange that overall staff costs for permanent employees went down, as did costs for agency staff which dropped by about £600,000 (USD $1.2Million). Agency staff costs are however, well above the reduction in permanent staff costs.

If ACE don't have enough staff to cover certain areas or there is a high level of absence and illness then perhaps they should hire more staff and reduce agency costs or have their offices tested for MRSA.

Another quirk of accounting is the pension costs. Despite lower levels of staff the funding monoliths pension contribution rose by just over £1Million (USD $2.04Million) from the previous year.

Overall Arts Council England continues to be its own biggest client. They spent £51.6Million (USD $105.3Million) running the organisation over the past financial year. This includes a none recurring cost of £1.9Million (USD $3.8Million) for implementing a new computer system called "Arena". ACE explained that the system is mostly online and provides accounting, budget, contact and other services to ACE employees across the country.

If we add the previous years cost for this new system (£4.3Million (USD $8.7Million)) what we have is ACE spending over £6Million (USD $12.2Million) on their shiny new IT infrastructure over the last two years. This begs the question, why does it take 6 weeks to process a funding application for £5,000? If you make that £5,001 it takes 12 weeks! Money well spent?

The overall cost of running ACE fell by £30,000 (USD $61,273) from the previous year.

Sharing the Loot

After spending a lot of money on themselves how do ACE disperse the funds to others? Regularly Funded Organisations (RFO) get the lions share of the cash taking away £314.9Million (USD $643.1Million). RFO's in the dance world include companies like Siobhan Davies Dance Company, Jasmin Vardimon Company and Motionhouse Dance Theatre. These companies receive funding on a three year agreement.

A further £9.7Million is (USD $19.8Million) used to fund Grants for the Arts Individuals. These figures do not include money from the National Lottery. The financial reporting for Lottery money is not broken down into any discernible detail.

All the numbers are moving in the right direction. Both funding for RFO's and Grants for the Arts increased with a £14.1Million (USD $28.7Million) and £0.9Million (USD $1.8Million) bump respectively from the previous year. Grants for the Arts will be taking a big hit in next years numbers though because ACE has cut the amount of funds available, via the Lottery, by £29Million (USD $59.2Million).

As with many things Government funded there is a price to pay depending on which region of the country you live in. There are nine regional offices for ACE each one covering a certain geographic area. The amount of funding available to each one is broken down as follows; (previous year in brackets)

Source: ACE Annual Review 2006/2007
  ACE Funding Distribution by Regions of England
East £11,212,000 (£11,028,000)
East Midlands £12,141,000 (£11,945,000)
London £169,550,000 (£156,336,000)
North East £16,557,000 (£16,196,000)
North West £26,770,000 (£27,891,000)
South East £15,298,000 (£14,982,000)
South West £17,453,000 (£16,849,000)
West Midlands £44,953,000 (£39,085,000)
Yorkshire £28,205,000 (£25,693,000)

As you can see, London takes away more than £120Million (USD $245Million) more than its nearest rival in ACE West Midlands. London consumes over 50% of the funding despite only having 13.6% of the population, according to The Office of National Statistics. Here in TheLab™ we're sensing a touch of déjà vu because we seem to have written about this before, years ago, and evidently not much has changed.

In fact the North West of England, the area of the country covered by ACE North West has a 0.1% higher population level yet receives a staggering £142Million (USD $290Million) less to distribute among its clients.

London's abnormally high funding level increase should be attributed to the fact that the central office has stopped handing out funding directly.

Paying the Executive

One very interesting thing about the Annual Review is the table of figures showing just how much each Executive Director gets paid to run their respective part of the ACE machine.

Source: ACE Annual Review 2006/2007
  Executive Director Salary 2006/2007
Peter Hewitt (Central Office) £144,000
Nick Capaldi (South West) £77,000
Andy Carver (Yorkshire) £77,000
Laura Dyer (East Midlands) £77,000
Michael Eakin (North West) £86,000
Felicity Harvest (South East) £77,000
Sally Luton (West Midlands) £77,000
Ailleen McEvoy (North West) £28,000 (part year figure)
Mark Robinson (North East) £67,000
Andrea Stark (East) £85,000
Sarah Weir (London) £90,000

These figures don't include pension contributions made by ACE or bonuses.

If some of those numbers leave struggling artists feeling ever so slightly ill you can take some comfort in knowing that they all pay 40% income tax and spend most of their time in meetings, a fate that some would consider worse than death.

One final note of trivia. ACE appears to be a tremendous hoarder of valuable art. At the time of writing they have audited assets valued at, no kidding, £68.2Million (USD $139.3Million). That's something to ponder the next time you ask for £2,000 and they turn you down because "your activity is not a priority at this time".

[ Read The Full Review PDF ]
[ Arts Council England ]
[ CSS Table Layout by Veerle Pieters ]

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