DCC takes over functions of Culture Company it owns and funds
LONDONDERRY’S Culture Company is owned by Derry City Council and the £12.6m provided by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) for UK City of Culture 2013 was offered specifically to the local authority, the Sentinel can reveal.
It’s been reported that some of the Culture Company’s functions have been called in by Derry City Council.
Council Chief Executive Sharon O’Connor wrote to the company last Wednesday (October 3) to state that its marketing function was “not performing.”
But the Sentinel can reveal that a top civil servant made it clear to MLAs in June that the Culture Company is owned by Derry City Council and that the £12.6m in taxpayers money dedicated towards Londonderry’s cultural jamboree next year is directly the responsibility of the local authority.
Head of DCAL’s Arts Branch Joanne McConway told MLAs in June: “It is just that our letter of offer will be to Derry City Council because it is the owner of the Culture Company. Legal advisers are looking over the wording and so on, but there are no issues.
“We have put in place a management and monitoring section, which was submitted to the Department of Finance of Personnel (DFP) quite recently, and that was developed in partnership with Derry City Council. It is quite happy about the arrangements.”
She also said the £12.6m included an ‘optimism bias’ of £12.6m.
“The allocation will include a contribution towards marketing of the City of Culture, and we have made an allocation of up to £1.6 million from the £12.6 million for that. “The £12.6 million also includes an optimism bias of up to £2 million. It is a bit like a contingency fund, but it is subject to additional approval and it is only for unforeseen costs: things that the Culture Company and Derry City Council cannot foresee at the minute, but that may require spending in the future.
“The example in the context of capital projects would generally be when legislation changes and something that comes up that could not be foreseen in the original business case. That is there for emergency purposes, as it were,” she said.
Importantly, she said there were clear conditions for funding and there needed to be results.
“Now that that level of funding has been agreed and the outcomes that we expect to see in return for it are clear, the next step is to issue a formal letter of offer that will set out the conditions of funding. That has been developed and is just going through the final look-over by legal advisers at the moment,” she said.
Now the Town Clerk has written to the Culture Company advising that some of its functions were being transferred directly to the Council, which owns it anyway.
She stated that the transfer of the marketing department “does not apply to the current director of marketing and communications, Mr Garbhan Downey”.
She wrote: “I have for the past eight months expressed my view that the marketing function of the Culture Company was not performing and immediate action was required to redress this failure.”
Speaking to the local press on Thursday (October 4) Mr Downey responded: “I can confirm that my staff are being ordered to report to council offices.”
He stated: “The CEO of Culture Company has been advised that the transfer does not include me.
“I reject entirely council’s attempted inference that this is somehow a performance-related issue. We had scheduled the full rollout of our marketing plans for Monday, and council have deliberately chosen to pre-empt that.”
Mr Downey added: “Those who know me will realise just how sad I am it has come to this.
“All of us have invested so much in this project, and it is essential to protect its integrity.
“It is particularly disappointing that, just as everything is in place and we are about to deliver the project, we get this letter.
“My solicitor Desmond Doherty has been provided with a copy of the council letter and is currently seeking clarification as to the exact legal status of the transfer the council are attempting to implement - and with particular regard to my own position.”
Back in June, Mrs Conway said a lot of negotiations were going on with regard to the cultural programme.
“The Culture Company launched highlights of the programme earlier this month. It expects to release the full and final programme in the autumn. Obviously, there are a lot of negotiations going on with artists and particularly a lot of the smaller projects with the communities that are still in development.
“The highlights launch showcased Ben Kelly from ‘The Voice’; Phil Coulter; and Philip King from the ‘Other Voices’ project. That is a little project from Dingle that is a little bit like the Jools Holland show - they have acts in a tiny church in Dingle.
“They are going to do a concert in partnership with the Culture Company. The highlights launch also confirmed dates for the All-Ireland Fleadh and the hosting of the Turner Prize next year,” she said.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Londonderry
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west
Temperature: 10 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West