Minister Humphreys publishes first ever value for money review of the Arts Council
The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, has today (Friday, 18 September, 2015) published a comprehensive review of the Arts Council’s activities and operation over the period 2009 to 2012. It was undertaken by the Department’s Evaluation Unit under the guidance of an expert Steering Committee chaired by Dr. John O’Hagan, Professor of Economics at Trinity College.
The value for money and policy review – the first of its kind to be carried out on the Arts Council – commends the Council for its response to the economic crisis by significantly reducing administration costs; overhauling its organisational structures; and developing on its RAISE initiative, which helps arts organisations to diversify funding streams.
The review also highlights the need for the Council to expand its efforts to improve transparency around its decision making; give greater consideration to addressing the issue of regional balance in accessing the arts; to engage more with stakeholders and establish the evidence-base for the societal benefits of its work.
In order to increase transparency in the decision making process, the review suggests that all grant schemes be operated on an open basis (rather than on an invitation only basis, which is the case for the Council’s largest funding scheme) and that the Council’s scoring system should be extended for use on all applications, which could be provided as feedback.
The review also suggests that the Arts Council should look at ways to improve the management of the Cnuas, the annual stipend for Aosdána members, and do more to highlight the artistic output of recipients.
Speaking today Minister Humphreys said:
“This review should act as an important tool for the Arts Council to improve its hugely beneficial work in funding arts organisations across the State. The review commends the Council for its response to the economic crisis and its efforts to maximise the level of funding directed towards supporting artistic activity.
“The Arts Council will receive almost €60 million in funding from my Department this year, and as such it must constantly strive to ensure that it is delivering the best value for money for the taxpayer. The report highlights a number of areas where there is room for improvement. For example, it identifies meaningful ways which could improve the level of transparency around the Arts Council’s decision making processes.
“The review calls on the Arts Council to provide better feedback to applicants. Every year, demand for arts funding exceeds the amounts available. I think it is important that the Arts Council provides more feedback to unsuccessful applicants, so they can strengthen future applications. It also suggests that the Arts Council consider setting aside a portion of annual funding for ‘new’ organisations. This could help to improve the diversity of artists and arts organisations getting support. The Arts Council has already taken significant strides to improve its operation in recent years and I see this review as an opportunity to further build on that momentum.”
The review highlighted the need not just to better monitor the results of its annual programme, but to also identify and explore the societal benefits of the work of the Arts Council. In this regard, Chair of the Steering Committee Dr. John O’Hagan noted:
“The arts are vital to us, not just because of the individual pleasures that they afford us, but because of the real and tangible benefits that they bring to our society and our economy. The arts contribute to our sense of national identity, they can help improve social cohesion, they create an environment where innovation and creativity are fostered, they help us attract tourists and improve our reputation internationally. We need to further examine and explore these benefits to really understand the value of the arts.”
Commenting on the report, Sheila Pratschke, Chair of the Arts Council said:
“This report recognises the significant effort made by the Arts Council since 2008 to look forward, despite very real challenges in our operating environment, and to constantly renew ourselves in response to the needs of that evolving environment. We will build on the findings of this report, as we launch our own ten-year strategy 2016 – 2025, to ensure that we remain flexible and responsive to the needs of artists, arts organisations and communities across the country in our role to lead the development of the arts in Ireland.”
The Arts Council, which operates under the arm’s length principle, has also recently launched its new 10-year strategy – Making Great Art Work – which has incorporated many of the principles highlighted in the value for money review. For example:
- the Council has undertaken to make clear the criteria used to make funding decisions thereby improving the transparency of its operation;
- it intends to build sustainable relationships with organisations by supporting them to develop sustainable fundraising strategies and programme; and
- it has committed to better measuring and monitoring the outcomes of its investment strategy.
Notes to Editor:
The Value for Money and Policy Review of the Arts Council can be accessed here:
It was undertaken as part of the Government’s three year programme of evaluation, required as part of the reformed multi-annual budgetary framework.
Members of Steering Committee:
The Steering Committee established to oversee the Value for Money and Policy Review of the Arts Council was chaired by Dr. John O’Hagan, Professor of Economics, Trinity College and membership comprised the following representatives:
- Dermot Quigley, Vote Section, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
- Tim Maverley, Financial Management Unit, Department of Justice and Equality*
- Martin O’Sullivan, Finance Director and Company Secretary, Arts Council
- Mary Nash, Arts Division, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
- Lead evaluator, Deirdre Mahony, Evaluation Unit, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht **
- Ciara Morgan, Central Expenditure Evaluation Unit, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform ***
- Kate Ivory, Central Expenditure Evaluation Unit, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform ***
*Tim Maverley replaced Donal Murray, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on the Steering Committee in January 2014.
** Deirdre Mahony replaced Patricia Curran as lead evaluator in December 2014.
*** Ciara Morgan and Kate Ivory replaced Jean Carberry, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in March 2015.
Dr John O’Hagan:
Dr. John O’Hagan has worked in Trinity College Dublin since 1970 and has been Professor of Economics at the college since 2005. He is a Senior Fellow of the College. One of his main areas of research interest are the economics of the arts and, in addition to his academic work in the area, he is a regular contributor to the national press on the issue. His current work includes an analysis of the determinants of creative career success and, as part of an EU-funded project, research into cultural participation. Dr. O’Hagan served as President of the Association for Cultural Economics International from 1998 to 2000 and continues to be actively involved in the work of the Association.