Arts Council England has announced an internal review of the selection process used by a judging panel to commission a Yorkshire-based local consortium for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
The move comes in response to claims that several of the judges in the Yorkshire region had undeclared conflicts of interest or links to the group that won the bid and £500,000 funding.
Leeds-based costume maker Carol Lee, whose complaints about her local panel prompted the review, claims that ACE broke its own guidelines for the Artists Taking the Lead programme in Yorkshire.
ACE’s manual for the nationwide competition stated that judges had to submit a conflict of interest form and “be alert” to this issue throughout the process. It also said that panel members could not be employed by or be a board member of any applicant organisation.
More than 130 applications were submitted to Yorkshire’s eight judges in 2009 before five were shortlisted and the winner was chosen.
Leeds Canvas, a consortium of 12 local organisations including Northern Ballet Theatre, Leeds City Council and Opera North, won the bid.
Cluny Macpherson, ACE’s head of external relations for Yorkshire, who sat on the board, has now requested the internal review. The arts council’s chief operating officer Althea Efunshile will conduct the inquiry and report the findings later this month.
A spokesman from ACE said: “We have, to date, been confident that the selection process [for ATTL] was robust.
“In light of [changes to government and funding processes since 2009] and the questions still being raised, and in the interest of openness and accountability, regional director Cluny Macpherson has asked that the Artists Taking the Lead selection process in Yorkshire be reviewed, to see if there are any lessons to be learned for the future. We will make the results available to interested parties.”
However, Lee said: “I believe an internal review will be a whitewash and this is just a way of ‘calling off the heat’ until after Christmas. The real truth of what happened will only be known if ACE held an independent inquiry, which I will continue to push for.”