The Arts Council have made a verbal apology to me regarding my complaining of the Arts Council giving grant funding to start up business that impact upon existing business’ incomes. When I pursued this in a formal manner, hoping to encourage the Arts Council to be clearer and fairer and considered , they refused to engage further but instead directed me to their formal complaints procedure.
This complaints procedure – https://arts.wales/sites/default/files/2019-11/Complaints%20Procedure.pdf – appears to be simple enough. I am not satisfied with the response from the managers at the Arts Council and so I followed their direction as detailed in the pdf and so I contacted the chief executive with this:
‘I have been in contact with xx xx at Arts Wales.
I am unsatisfied that she has either answered my questions, addressed my concerns or gone any way in having me have faith that the Arts Council Funding decisions will not in the future continue to impact adversely my business.
I am most concerned at thoughts about displacement of existing business prior to making a grant decision and also about best value and value for money for the taxpayer after funding has been delivered.
My last message to xx was the following after which she refused to engage anymore and directed me to you…
‘Oh my xx, not helpful at all…
I thank you for taking the time in copying the relevant items of information that you believe go some way to answering my questions. But answering my questions this information does not.
1. I think you need to think about what happens BEFORE you award a grant. What actions and investigations do the Arts Council undertake prior to awarding a grant to ensure that existing business’ will not be displaced? I thought that that was the clear implication of that question and that definately remains un-answered.
2. So, are you saying it’s OK for, on multiple occasions, life drawing to have cost the taxpayer £75pp and to my knowledge those in attendance being reasonably well motivated and well balanced and well cared for individuals? The kind of young person whose parents would have given them £7.50 to attend my drop in sessions? That would be a saving by a factor of 10… I am saying here that you can throw words at me – and in answer to q2 you did this and in repetition too, but that doesn’t override my experience and sessions that I have had sight of. And I am in no doubt that other highly questionable expensive provision has also taken place across the board with regards to Arts Active delivery of the Criw Celf programme.
3. I believe there could be a breach not of the terms and conditions of the funding by the recipient as it would appear use of Arts Council funding in this respect was left ‘loose’ but a breach of your duty of care to the wider community when making such grants. I am not attacking Arts Active, but you, the Arts Council, for not making it part of the terms of grant funding that no existing business is displaced… I think that would be a fair demand by all arts business’ in Wales of the Arts Council re funding decisions…
4. Are you then saying that best value and working with tried and tested existing business, the saving of public money and the support of innovative and financially sound small business, is outside of the priorities of The Arts Councils 5 year plan?
It is clear that continuing to fund those who squander public money in the delivery of engagement and experiences that others can clearly do and at a fraction of the cost is the route you will be taking. I therefore ask that Arts Active and the Criw Celf programme be audited with best value in mind and instructed to refrain from castle building and where possible use existing business and service providers.
I look forward to hearing from you’
At a face to face meeting I did float an idea and it was well received and has been well received by all I chat to about it. Forget the big initiatives. Have the Arts Council do what they should be doing and that is outreach to current practitioners and business and create a directory of locations where young people can attend extracurricular art events and courses. Have that directory in every school and give young people a book of vouchers for use at the arts centres and for the arts providers sessions. If they don’t use them there is no cost. If they do the provider sends in the voucher for payment. Simple as. No wages need paying. No waste. No young person costing the taxpayer over £75pp for a life drawing session.
I look forward to hearing from you.’
The Chief Executive then got back to me saying that I need to read the pdf and follow the procedures. As they seemed to be directing me elsewhere I assume that they want me to go to ICR (independent complaints reviewer)… So I asked them that, should I go to an ICR and they said no… The Chief Exec is prepared to look at the complaint but it needs to be submitted in line with the pdf…
I have got back to the Arts Council asking what else they might need to progress this. It feels like this has been a longstanding ongoing complaint that really ought to have been dealt with by now… but I guess it’s helping to pay someones wages…