NPOs to get £37m funding boost in arts council investment plans - Museums Association

NPOs to get £37m funding boost in arts council investment plans

ACE releases budget details for 2018-22
National Portfolio Organisations (NPO) are to benefit from an extra £37m a year in the next period of investment by Arts Council England (ACE).

Under budget plans released last week, the arts council's total pot for its three main funding streams, combining grant-in-aid and lottery funding, will be £622m a year between 2018 and 2022.

The arts council revealed that the funding available for NPOs will be £409m a year during that period - £341m grant-in-aid and £68m lottery funding. This figure integrates the budget for the soon-to-be-abolished Major Partner Museum programme, plus an additional uplift of £37m.

As reported previously, museum funding will no longer be ringfenced and museums can now apply for NPO status. The funding period has increased from three to four years, and the programme will offer grants in three bands in order to fund a more diverse range of organisations.

The arts council said the funding increase is specifically intended to support its ambition to raise the proportion of the NPO budget spent outside London by 4% over the next spending period.

Meanwhile the budget for the newly-renamed Grants for Arts and Culture programme, which will now fund museum-specific activities, is to rise by £10m a year to £87.5m, an increase designed to help integrate museums and libraries into the programme.
The arts council’s third major funding stream, strategic funds, will remain broadly the same at £125m a year.

The arts council was able to boost funding after receiving a standstill settlement from the government for the coming investment period, as well as drawing down its current lottery reserves. However, ACE’s chief executive Darren Henley cautioned that the organisation’s funding position “remains very tight”.

“We need our money to stretch much further, and we’ll have to revisit the spreadsheets if the financial picture deteriorates in the future,” he said.  

Alongside the investment changes, ACE is introducing more stringent monitoring requirements for the organisations it funds, with penalties for those that fail to hit diversity targets or regularly gather and report data in areas such as audiences, staffing, touring and expenditure.

In addition, NPOs receiving grants of £250,000 or more will be obliged to participate in the arts council’s Quality Metrics research programme, a controversial benchmarking scheme for evaluating the quality and reach of artistic and cultural activities.

The scheme has been criticised by a number of culture professionals – including the incoming ACE chairman Nicholas Serota – as an inappropriate and overly narrow method of measuring quality.

ACE published further guidance for prospective NPOs last week, and will open its NPO application portal, Grantium, on 26 October. Applicants are required to have a conversation with ACE about their bid and register on Grantium by 13 January next year.

The final deadline for NPO applications falls on 1 February 2017.

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