In a move designed to avoid fatal cuts within the arts infrastructure, Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisation budget will for the first time combine government grant-in-aid of £271m with £60m of Lottery funding. In announcing its 2015-18 agenda for arts investment, ACE has also made the significant step of including in its NPO guidance that it expects funded organisations to deliver fair pay, both for artists and employed staff.

When responding to questions raised by a-n and AIR about artists’ payments in a live chat in November, ACE Chief Executive Alan Davey had confirmed that this move was under consideration. The new guidance states: “Applicants for National portfolio funding should make sure they can provide proper and fair payments to artists they will be working with, when considering their budget. Artists’ fees for projects funded by us should be in line with recognised codes of practice set by the relevant lead bodies.”

Among those bodies listed as key information providers on practitioner fees rates is a-n, representing visual arts alongside the bodies for musicians, actors, theatre, writers and technical staff.

a-n Director Susan Jones said: “We are delighted that Arts Council England has taken the opportunity to extend the existing fair pay expectation for Grants for the arts applicants into the next NPO round.

“We invite all visual arts NPO and GFTA applicants to make use of our sample rates that take into account both career stage and artists’ likely overhead costs and can be directly applied to budgets for residencies, commissions and community projects. In terms of exhibitions, our research shows that fees for exhibitions have become unacceptably low. Initial analysis suggests a reasonable budgeting range per show might be from £400-£3,000, depending on the funding levels for the gallery.”

Jones added: “While we welcome the guidance on fair pay, how, we wonder, will ACE know it has happened? Unless there’s an unambiguous indicator within the funding agreements, there’s always a danger that any budgets specifically for artists’ fees could be cut back when times get harder or income targets aren’t met.”

Ambition and excellence

Arts organisations can apply for NPO status for three years, although they will only get confirmation of funding for 2015/16 as funds for subsequent years are subject to future grant-in-aid settlements from government to the Arts Council. The Lottery-funded Grants for the arts will increase to £70m and there will be a Strategic fund budget of £127m.

When launching the arts funding programme, Alan Davey said: “At the heart of this investment strategy is the desire to retain ambition, risk and excellence in the arts and culture sector in the next three years. We’ll support an eclectic range of artists and organisations whose work, in different ways, will be relevant and valued by everyone, everywhere in England. We must keep the sector resilient and ensure art and culture retain their central place in this country’s way of life.”

Writing to current NPOs, Davey said: “Some organisations will receive less than at present, a few may receive more, while others may leave the portfolio or join for the first time.”

Within visual arts NPOs, nearly half of the funding goes to the ‘Top 20’ galleries and production agencies, with BALTIC in Gateshead the best ACE-funded gallery in England, receiving almost double the grant of its nearest rival Whitechapel Gallery, London.

Some of the smaller-scale galleries and artist-led organisations who were denied NPO funding in 2011 seem likely candidates for funding this time round, having proved in the intervening period their ability to gather income and funds from a range of sources and to maximise their audience reach.

More on

Arts funding index – portfolio of articles and reports on arts funding and policies in the aftermath of Arts Council England 2011 NPO decisions and arts strategies and funding in Scotland and Wales.

Paying artists research – reports and evidence from surveys and interviews.

Creative Scotland reveals interim plan – Scottish arts funding body reveals that artform reviews will underpin the development of a longer-term plan for 2014-17.

A Creative Scotland in waiting – report from November’s Open Session event in Glasgow.

For ongoing News and commentary search under ‘arts funding’ on this site