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Government to carry out public body review of Arts Council England

Dame Mary Archer, former chairman of the Science Museum Group, is to lead the review.

  • Review is part of standard government process for publicly-funded organisations
  • Process will ensure the Arts Council is supporting high-quality arts and culture for all as effectively as possible

The Government is to carry out a public body review of Arts Council England to ensure it is delivering in its mission to support high-quality arts and culture across the country.

The review is part of the Cabinet Office’s cross-government public body reviews programme – a standard process routinely carried out on all publicly-funded organisations. This will be the first such review of Arts Council England since 2017.

Dame Mary Archer, the former chairman of the Science Museum Group, is to lead the review, aided by an advisory panel featuring experts from across the arts and cultural sectors, supported by civil servants.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said:

In theatre, music, painting, sculpture and many more artforms, the UK is a world leader, with creativity sitting at the core of our identity as a country.

This review will help ensure that Arts Council England is driving creative excellence in the arts by funding ambitious projects of the highest quality.

Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said:

For more than three quarters of a century, the Arts Council has been one of our most important national institutions, ensuring that life-changing arts and culture is available to everyone, free from political influence from the government of the day.

This Government has demonstrated its strong commitment to supporting a thriving arts sector – with a record number of organisations, in more parts of the country than ever before, benefiting from the increased public funding we have made available to Arts Council England. This review will help us to ensure that it is spending that money effectively, so that its important work can transform as many lives as possible.

Dame Mary Archer said: 

It is a privilege to lead this review because the work of Arts Council England is so important to us all. It enriches our lives, enhances our individual wellbeing and maintains our national reputation for excellence across the arts and creative sectors.

I look forward to working alongside my expert advisory panel, and listening to a wide range of voices, to help ACE to deliver its vital mission.

Panel chair Dave Moutrey said:

The opportunity to be part of this expert advisory panel to provide challenge and ensure rigour in the process is very interesting and, given the importance of Arts Council England to the sector, a responsibility not to be worn lightly.

The Arts Council, which was founded in 1946 by a Royal Charter, makes funding decisions at arm’s length from the government of the day, using taxpayers’ and National Lottery players’ money to support engaging and innovative projects and organisations across the whole of England.

Through its latest funding round (2023–26), the Government is spending £445 million per year through Arts Council England, an increase from £410 million in the last round. This funding has been helping to increase access to the arts across the whole country, bringing high-quality arts and culture to the doorstep of millions of people, and enabling Arts Council England to support organisations in places where it previously did not. A record total of 985 organisations now receive regular funding from Arts Council England across the country as part of its National Portfolio Organisation programme.

Over the next three years Arts Council England is also committed to investing over £130 million of National Lottery funding per year in project funding for organisations and individuals, and another £50 million per year through development funds which include capital projects, cultural education, museum development and collection management.

As part of the standard process for reviews of this kind, the review team must identify how Arts Council England could implement 5% of cost savings. It will also assess how Arts Council England is delivering creative excellence in the arts to ensure that the projects it supports are ambitious and high-quality. The Government will then consider these as part of its response to the review.

Dame Mary Archer will be assisted by an expert panel of 14 people from the arts and cultural sector from across England. They are:

  • Dave Moutrey (Chair)
  • Sir Damon Buffini
  • David Butcher
  • Tony Butler
  • Leila D’Aronville
  • Nathaniel Hepburn MBE
  • Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall
  • Sir Simon Robey
  • Gurvinder Sandher MBE DL
  • Professor Katy Shaw
  • Sarah Staniforth CBE
  • Jo Verrent
  • Dr Sharon Watson MBE DL
  • Sue Williamson MBE
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