MPs to question Arts Council England over handling of emergency coronavirus aid

MPs are expected to focus on the acknowledgment that money failed to ‘trickle down' to freelancers.

MPs are to question Arts Council England (ACE) over its handling of the initial £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF).

The body was one of four given responsibility for awarding and distributing the aid to organisations at risk during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chairman Sir Nicholas Serota and chief executive Dr Darren Henley will appear before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee to face questions during the one-off session on Tuesday April 20.

New Tate Modern Extension
Sir Nicholas Serota (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

MPs are expected to focus on communications around the CRF, eligibility criteria used to award grants and the acknowledgment that money failed to “trickle down” to freelancers.

The session will also look at the financial impact of Covid-19 on ACE’s 10-year strategy to boost culture in the context of further expected reductions in local authority investment.

It will also explore ACE’s role in mitigating the challenges of cultural exchanges, touring, and exporting to European Union countries in the post-Brexit landscape.

The performing arts sector has been effectively closed for the past 12 months, with theatres and music venues shuttered.

Some were able to reopen partially in the summer and autumn.

In July 2020, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced the CRF.

But in March, Meg Hillier MP, who is chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, urged payments, which are awarded by arm’s-length bodies, to be speeded up.

“Many across the sector will have welcomed the funding announced last summer,” she said.

“But eight months later, more than half of the £1 billion made available so far is still waiting in the wings.”

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