Smith urged to publish ROH report

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The Independent Online
A government-ordered inquiry into the Royal Opera House's relationship with the Arts Council is critical of both institutions. But, as David Lister found, the Arts Council chose only to release a summary of the inquiry's findings.

The financial management and systems of the Royal Opera House need to be improved, according to an independent inquiry. The study, by City lawyer Edward Walker-Arnott, concluded that there were "difficulties and tension in the relationship" between the ROH and its funding body, and "both sides should take some criticism".

With criticisms generally muted, the inquiry report was welcomed yesterday by Lord Gowrie, the Arts Council chairman. But the Arts Council attracted immediate flak for publishing only a summary rather than the report in its entirety, leading to speculation that the full report may have contained further criticisms.

Questions are likely to be raised as to whether there should have been an independent inquiry, rather than Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, allowing the Arts Council to commission a report from Mr Walker-Arnott, release only a summary, and show it to the Royal Opera House management before publishing it.

Raymond Gubbay, a classical music promoter who has worked with the Royal Opera House in the past, last night wrote to Mr Smith, urging him to publish the whole report. "How better to clear the air than to publish Mr Walker-Arnott's findings in full. Why should we be asked to make do with a bowdlerised version, no doubt sanitised to protect those involved? In the era of open government under new Labour, this is hardly setting a good example," Mr Gubbay wrote.

The summary uses such phrases as "Mr Walker-Arnott makes a number of detailed and technical criticisms ..." without explaining what they were. Sources said last night that some Arts Council members remain distinctly unhappy, and are understood to be threatening to withhold the next tranche of Royal Opera House lottery money (some pounds 8m of its pounds 78m) if they are not more satisfied with the way the ROH is managing the redevelopment project and the Arts Council's monitoring of it.

Mr Smith ordered the inquiry following the resignation of Genista McIntosh as chief executive of the ROH and her replacement by the Arts Council secretary-general Mary Allen, without the post being advertised. The ROH receives pounds 78m of lottery money from the Arts Council.

In his report, Mr Walker-Arnott looks into the state of the Royal Opera House lottery funded development, the management systems, structure and procedures to be operated by the ROH during its closure period, and the ROH's relationship with its funding body the Arts Council, including systems of accountability. He concludes: "There is a need for clarity in setting out what is expected in the relationships between the Arts Council and the organisations it funds; rigour in assessing and monitoring these organisations; and the ability and willingness to apply sanctions to those organisations where necessary."