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ENO loses national portfolio status after ‘serious’ financial concerns

The London Coliseum, home of English National Opera. Photo: Mike Peel The London Coliseum, home of English National Opera. Photo: Mike Peel
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English National Opera has been dropped from Arts Council England’s national portfolio and instead placed under a “special funding arrangement”, after ACE said it had “serious concerns” about the organisation.

ENO will no longer be part of the arts council’s portfolio for 2015 to 2018, but will enter into a two-year funding arrangement proposed by ACE.

The organisation will still receive £12.38 million per year in revenue funding – as was proposed in ACE’s initial 2015-18 funding offer last July. However, under its NPO arrangement ENO was set to receive £7.6 million in transition funding, which will now be reduced to £6.13 million.

ACE said that entry to the portfolio at a later date would be possible, but would depend on the extent of progress made, and that decisions on future funding would be taken following the implementation of this special arrangement.

This means that despite the reduction in transition funding, ENO will receive roughly £1 million more over the next two years than it would have under the previous arrangement.

The money is however conditional on a number of “milestones” set for ENO by ACE, which must be met in order for the grant to be released.

These include the recruitment of a “suitably qualified chief executive able to develop and deliver a new business model for the company”, strengthening ENO’s “financial operations”, and the recruitment of a permanent chair.

Earlier this month, chairman Martyn Rose and executive director Henriette Gotz announced they were leaving the company.

ACE confirmed that the agreement also includes a “comprehensive monitoring plan” for ENO, which will require the company to report monthly on its income and expenditure, audience figures and progress on the recruitment conditions.

A statement from ACE said that the decision had been taken after it recognised “a number of significant risks” associated with a proposed business plan ENO had submitted, which meant that it was not “robust enough” to be sustainably funded over three years as planned.

Althea Efunshile, acting chief executive of ACE, said: “No one is doubting that ENO is capable of extraordinary artistic work but we have serious concerns about their governance and business model and we expect them to improve or they could face removal of our funding.”

ENO artist-in-residence Peter Sellars recently described ENO’s situation as a “Chernobyl meltdown”, following years of instability at the organisation.

The company has undergone long-term financial troubles over a number of years, and ENO received a £10 million “stabilisation grant” from ACE in 2002 to prevent it from collapsing,

More recently, the organisation was forced to pull out of a major co-production of Orfeo with Bristol Old Vic.

Harry Brunjes, who took over as acting chair following Rose’s resignation, said the company was “grateful” to ACE for the funding agreement.

“The ENO board will continue to work closely with Arts Council England to inspire confidence in our future plans, the management of the company and the London Coliseum,” he added.

ACE also confirmed that it would enter into a similar arrangement with Colchester’s Firstsite gallery, which will receive a one-year funding package made up of its planned revenue funding of £814,517 and transition funding, the amount of which is yet to be confirmed.

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