ACE axes 42 head office staff in war on job doubling

Nuala Calvi
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Arts Council England is to cut 42 jobs at its Great Peter Street headquarters as part of a scaling-down of the national office recommended in a recent independent review of the organisation.

Some 21% of permanent staff will be lost, saving approximately £2 million a year, in an attempt to reduce any remaining duplication with ACE’s regional offices.

Under the plans, the national team will no longer distribute funds directly to any arts companies but will concentrate on advocating for the arts and finding new sources of investment for the sector. Its remaining clients, which include Welsh National Opera, Eclipse Theatre, Arts and Business, Visiting Arts and Youth Music, will be distributed among the nine regional teams.

An ACE spokesman said: “When we merged with the regional arts boards four years ago the intention always was that organisations previously managed by the old arts council would move to the regions. There are some things that hang over from that time but this is a move to resolve that.”

Last year’s peer review, led by Genista McIntosh, who previously ran the National Theatre and the Royal Opera House, reported a lack of confidence in the arts council’s national office and confusion among staff and clients about the role of the central council. It recommended refocusing on campaigning and development work to make the case for the arts in the UK and increase cultural participation.

According to the new proposals, remaining personnel at the Westminster office will be split into four teams, looking at policy and innovation, including artform specialists, performance and programmes, advocacy and communications, and resources. Staff and unions are now being consulted on the restructuring.

ACE chief executive Peter Hewitt commented: “This review of the national office will give the arts council the right structure and shape for the 21st century. Overall, the proposed changes aim to create a more streamlined and effective organisation. The national office will deliver better advocacy for the arts, aiming to bring in considerably more investment from a variety of sources.”

AK Bennett-Hunter, former president of the Theatrical Management Association, said the changes could provide an opportunity for ACE to reassert itself as a much-needed voice for the industry and demonstrate its independence from government. “That’s an area of its work that has been sadly neglected for quite a while and something which it used to do better,” he said.

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The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London. Photo: Noel Foster