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Report slams arts quango chiefs

SENIOR management at the crisis-hit arts funding body Creative Scotland has been severely criticised in a report that formed the background to the departure of its embattled chief executive Andrew Dixon.

The internal review, by board member Ruth Wishart, said a "gulf" developed between Mr Dixon and directors Venu Dhupa, Caroline Parkinson and Iain Munro and the rest of the staff, which led to some feeling "undervalued and underutilised".

Mr Dixon stepped down last week after months of turmoil in which Creative Scotland, which annually distributes £80 million in Government and lottery funds, was lambasted by hundreds of Scotland's top artists, writers, playwrights, musicians and composers in a damning open letter.

Creative Scotland issued a contrite statement earlier this month ahead of the report's publication setting out major reforms, including the reversal of funding cuts, abandonment of controversial projects and a promise to end "promoting itself ahead of artists".

But yesterday's report made it clear why change had to come at the top, with Ms Wishart writing: "Some of the hallmarks of a healthy organisation are respect for its staff, clear communication of its objectives and practices, and a willingness to listen to advice and feedback.

"There was an almost universal belief among the staff that a gulf had opened between the activities of some members of the senior management team and those of the rest of the staff.

"This impacted on the ability of staff members to articulate the organisation's goals and led to their feeling undervalued and underutilised.

"The existing vehicles for staff discussion and debate do not serve their purpose well."

The report criticises Creative Scotland's ability to utilise its staff effectively, saying that there were times where people were being asked to make funding decisions on artistic disciplines they had no knowledge of.

It continues: "This could and did result in people bidding into the wrong pot, and sometimes then missing deadlines for the right one."

Creative Scotland was also attacked for presiding over the "fracturing" of relationships with Scotland's artistic communities.

Among the report's recommendations are a commitment to introduce language that is "natural and accessible" and to create a forum of artists that will meet regularly to debate and consult on the arts in Scotland and provide feedback.

Calls were also made to bring artists into the process of deciding funding priorities and to carry out a "skills analysis" of staff to ensure they are deployed in areas suited to their abilities.

A second report, released by fellow board member Barclay Price, sets out changes to Creative Scotland's funding structure, including a commitment to provide organisations with a minimum period of funding.

It says: "We therefore will work to provide all funded organisations with a three-year commitment to 2015/16. We will look to see how this can be developed into a three-year rolling commitment, subject to review."

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