Letter: Cash for the arts

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Sir: One of the "real challenges" facing Peter Hewitt (Right of Reply, 25 February) must be how to maintain the pretence that the Arts Council "is currently cutting its staffing by half".

He must know that the Arts Council Staffing Proposal of January 1999 suggests that staff should be cut from 255.8 full-time equivalent posts in December 1998 to 181.6 full-time equivalent posts. That is a reduction of 29 per cent - and the final total only 25 less than the staffing level of 206 declared in the accounts for 1996/97!

In November, Arts Council News told us that "the Arts Council's full complement of staff is 322. When plans are finalised, a staff of around 150 is expected". The Staffing Proposal says that "the number of agreed posts in the current structure is 312.7 full-time equivalent posts". Who agreed to this unprecedented recruiting drive over the past two years?

Mr Hewitt boasts that the Arts Council, "far from taking from the arts, is in fact restoring many millions of pounds to it". The Arts Council News version of that promise was that "net financial savings from restructuring ... should free up as least pounds 2m per year for frontline arts activity".

When set against the pounds 28.5m the arts funding system spent on staff salaries, agency staff, professional fees (consultants) and external assessment (more consultants) in 1997/98, that hardly seems as radical or as generous as Peter Hewitt would like us to believe.