Sir Peter Bazalgette, the Big Brother media entrepreneur, was appointed chairman of Arts Council England last year for three reasons:
1 He was a crony of the outgoing Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who appointed him with his last drop of executive ink.
2 He had made donations to the arts.
3 He had pertinent experience as chairman of English National Opera.
The third, and only credible, reason for his appointment has now been exposed as unsound.
Baz was appointed chairman in May 2012, succeeding Vernon Ellis. He is not individually responsible for the company’s performance in the financial year ending 31 March 2012, which has just been lodged with the Charity Commission. But he was a member of the board, to all intents its deputy chairman, and he is the man who signed off the accounts on October 24, 2012, certifying them to be proper and correct.
In the year that he signed off, ENO posted an operating deficit of £2.47 million – as big a black hole as we have seen in British arts for more than a decade. Part of the loss is blamed on a cut in ACE funding, but that was long foreseen. The loss raises major questions about the management of the company’s finances and about its successive chairmen.
Where was Baz when the company was haemmorhaging cash? And how does his performance at ENO qualify him to be chairman of the Arts Council?
Baz needs to be summoned to the Big Brother room and voted off the show. Pronto.
Read the accounts here.