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Arts Council accused of being a 'soft touch'

MPs FEAR that the Arts Council could continue to lose control of budgets and programmes for major capital projects despite recent efforts to clamp down on cost overruns and delays.

Last week they urged the council to monitor initiatives to tighten up its assessment of grant applications and recommended that it beef up internal financial expertise.

In the report published by the all party Public Accounts Committee, MPs strongly criticised the Arts Council for being a soft touch for project promoters seeking more money. Of 15 projects examined by the committee, 13 were over budget and eight behind schedule. Biggest cost overruns were at the Sadler's Wells Theatre in London, where costs shot up £16.4M to push the total forecast cost to £54.7M.

MPs were especially concerned that the Arts Council relaxed or deferred special conditions for the award of grants even though these were put in place to prevent cost and time overruns.

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