Design watchdog has grant increased to almost £5m, as steps are taken to increase its public accountability

CABE has emerged unscathed from a round of government spending cuts to cultural bodies this week.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced this week that the design watchdog’s funding was to be increased from £4m to £4.9m.

By contrast, English Heritage will receive £13m less in real terms over the next three years, and the Arts Council is facing a £30m cut in grant.

In return for being spared the axe, Richard Simmons, CABE’s chief executive, has been asked to draw up a plan for to increase the commission’s efficiency. At this stage, no redundancies are anticipated.

Commenting on the funding rise, a spokesperson for CABE said: “This net figure is a decent jump up from what we currently get, but we’re expected to do more work. It isn’t an increase with no extra duties.”

Meanwhile, English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley said he was “very disappointed” by the 4.7% cut over the three years.

He said: “It’s very disappointing. Across government there has been an appreciation that heritage is important, but we’ve been given a £13m cut.”

A spokesperson for the DCMS acknowledged that the funding settlement was frugal but denied that CABE was getting special treatment.

He said: “This is a much tighter settlement than the previous two spending reviews, which saw big increases for new bodies like CABE. It’s the fallow period that follows two fertile ones.”

It is a jump up, but it isn’t an increase with no extra duties

CABE spokesperson

None of the three bodies are to have their funding linked to inflation.

The news came as Lord McIntosh, the heritage minister, welcomed the move to change the status of CABE from an advisory to a statutory body, a transition to be implemented through the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill.

The shift would make CABE a more publicly accountable body as it would be open to investigation by the National Audit Office.

Criticism of CABE’s alleged unaccountability has been a recurring theme since former chairman Sir Stuart Lipton stood down in June over perceived conflicts of interest.

CABE also faced the second round of a House of Commons select committee hearing into its effectiveness this week.

Giving evidence, Lord McIntosh called on CABE to make its design review process more transparent, and suggested that reviews that were not commercially confidential could be conducted in lecture halls and open to the public.

A CABE spokesperson ruled this suggestion out, citing client confidentiality, but Simmons said that the watchdog was working up plans to release coverage of sessions on DVD and video.

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