The Evil Imp

The Last Stand

Arts Council England (ACE) has announced the details of its government enforced restructuring plan to reduce operational costs by at least 50%.

Part of that restructuring is the cutting of 117.5 jobs across the country from a number of ACE offices. We could speculate all day about just exactly who at the funding monolith is doing half a job (insert your own joke about CEO Alan Davey here) but let’s move on shall we.

There is certainly nothing amusing about the fact that 117 people (and a Hobbit) will be losing their jobs over the coming months.

Without a doubt most of the witless thinking from the Big Bad, including the clueless communications strategy, is dictated from on high by the senior management. Anybody who has ever worked in a large bureaucracy will know the frustrations of being a worker bee when your boss is a queen bee that’s taken one to many knocks to the head trying to fly through an unopened window.

We feel sure, in the depths of ACE, there are good people trying to make the best of a bad lot.

However, you know we, here in TheLab™, would not be writing a piece about this unless there was a “but” in the equation somewhere.

Blowing The Whistle

If you’ve ever wondered how political reporters get their inside information about government then wonder no more. It’s not about late night meetings with shady figures decked out in shabby overcoats and fedoras in multi-story car parks.

More often than not it’s simply somebody on the inside, furnished with a conscience, leaking documents and other information to the press. It’s a lot more garden-gate than it is Watergate.

Safe to say that Article19 is not aware of even one instance that any of the current 559.5 employees of ACE have ever revealed information about the real situation behind the scenes.

That either means ACE is a perfectly functional, well oiled machine (stop laughing at the back) or they just didn’t care enough to let the cat out of the bag.


Revelations over the dubious funding application process for a project called “Leeds Canvas” were not uncovered by an ACE employee doing the right thing. They were uncovered by the dogged determination of one person, Carol Lee, to get to the truth of the matter.

In the ensuing melee ACE has huffed and puffed but nobody’s house has blown down.

Investigations into that particular matter are continuing, repercussions, we fear, will be non-existent for those responsible.

Over the years we have exposed many a bureaucratic malfunction at ACE towers when, more often than not, they have refused to talk about it or simply released asinine canned statements.

A few months ago we were approached by an individual with information regarding serious allegations of bullying and professional malpractice in a major arts organisation in England.

Despite compelling evidence, nobody would back up this individual on the record. The employees of ACE were nowhere to be seen.

A more simplistic example is the funding behind many of the projects on TheSpace. If it can be demonstrated that an £80,000 project could have been completed for one tenth of the cost are we to believe that nobody, anywhere within ACE, stood up and said “hang on, this just doesn’t make sense, we can do a lot more for the same amount of money?”

If they did then who are they and where are they? If they didn’t then just how much are we to care that these same people may soon be out of work?

That may sound callous but the one and only thing keeping large scale organisation honest and on track is the people who work for them. Even the most lowly administrator can bring down a corrupt multi-national with a single email or a phone call.

As an employee, if you are aware of professional malpractice, incompetence or other serious issues within an organisation then you have a moral and ethical obligation to speak up. It’s not about telling tales or scoring points, it’s about making sure broken systems get fixed.

Being the lone voice speaking out against corruption, incompetence or just good old fashioned stupidity is scary, that much we know. But the repercussions of not speaking out are far more damaging than anything that might affect the individual.

Decisions made by ACE and the execution of their often myopic policies ripple through the lives and careers of tens of thousands of people.

So, before they show you the door, whoever you are, get yourself some thumb drives and start copying. If you know something then tell somebody, tell us, tell the Guardian, tell your next door neighbour.

It might be the last chance you have to fix something that is very badly broken.