Such a move would stun the 10 boards, established after a government decision three years ago to devolve funding. The decision, made by the then arts minister, Richard Luce, did not appeal to his successors, Tim Renton and David Mellor, who stalled on giving final approval to new funding arrangements that would affect more than half of the Arts Council's 160 clients. Had Mr Mellor remained Secretary of State for National Heritage, the plan would probably have been scrapped.
Should that happen under Peter Brooke, his replacement, it would delight large organisations such as the Royal Court Theatre in London, the Royal Exchange in Manchester, the four London orchestras and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. They want to be nationally funded, rather than supported by regional boards and competing with village fairs for their money.
Mr Brooke is due to make a statement to Parliament next week on the future of delegation. It is understood that, although he has considered scrapping the plan, it is more likely there will be a compromise - devolved funding for a few smaller organisations.
Roger Taylor, chief executive of Birmingham City Council, which spends pounds 30m a year on the arts, has told Mr Brooke that big arts bodies looked to their funders for more than money; they needed 'advice, support, and well-informed and constructive criticism'. Delegation of funding for national arts organisations to bodies without a national remit would be a 'serious strategic mistake' that would undermine the arts landscape, he said.