Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England (ACE), has been told he should be 'embarrassed' by his answers after criticism of the organisation's handling of public money.
At the first oral session of the inquiry Davey faced interrogation on a range of issues, including the Arts Council's recent restructure, administration costs and the level of subsidy given to frontline services. He also faced accusations that the ACE is a 'politically correct' institution obsessed with bureaucracy at the expense of their regularly funded organisations.
Making a marked reference to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's statement that cuts must be handled 'intelligently', Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East cited examples of the ACE's purported wastefulness. This included £20,000 on a Christmas party, £10,000 on drinks at parliamentary conferences and thousands of pounds spent storing their own art collection.
If this was an attempt by the ACE to convince the government of the evidential value and subsequent return of investing in the arts, it did not work. In fact the committee even accused the arts community of 'scaremongering', citing the example of Tate Director Sir Nicholas Serota's claims the coalition's 'blitzkrieg' on the arts will be 'the greatest crisis in arts and heritage since government funding began.'
In addition to Davey, Arts and Business Chief Executive Colin Tweedy and Louise de Winter, Director of the National Campaign for the Arts, gave evidence. Winter made a strong point for the importance of local authorities to arts funding, questioning whether their relationship with the ACE needs re-evaluating. Davey responded by saying "I want to achieve some instance of monitoring arrangements with local authorities." It was hardly ground breaking stuff.
Davey also refused to give any assurances on funding for specific organisations. When asked whether some of the Arts Council's regularly funded bodies would lose 100% of their funding he simply reiterated his commitment to plans already laid out for the coming year - nothing beyond. When pushed on the matter he admitted some organisations could lose 100% of their subsidy within 18 months.
Colin Tweedy also admitted he fears for the future of Arts and Business, criticising their label as a quango. He said: "We are a private body, not a quango. Yet whenever we ask the private sector for money they have said no. Alan has not given us assurances we will continue to receive our grant. Without public money we would cease to exist in our current format. So yes, we are in danger."
In almost two hours of debate there was not a single mention of the impact cuts will have on individual artists. Tweedy suggested the need to adopt the 'can-do' ethos of many American organisations. Yet this mind-set is already evidenced closer to home, where thousands of artists adopt a multifaceted, nomadic approach to survival every day of their lives.
The report submitted to government by the committee will undoubtedly fail to communicate the economic and social returns our sector offers, with many of the criticisms made of Davey and the ACE taking centre-stage. What little positives that can be drawn from the inquiry come in the form of facts and figures we have heard a hundred times before. Once again, here was a missed opportunity.