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Arts Council pulls plug on group's cash; NEW BLOW FOR UNDER-FIRE TEAM.

Byline: AMY HUNT

AN ART group which had been due to move into a multi-million pound gallery in Newcastle has had its funding pulled weeks after being dropped from the project.

Waygood was set to move into a studio and gallery complex being developed by Newcastle City Council on High Bridge, but the local authority axed the Byker-based organisation as its preferred operator in February.

Now the Arts Council has confirmed its decision to stop funding it, saying it has "serious concerns about Waygood's governance and business planning".

However, the Arts Council's funding will continue until September, while Newcastle City Council will carry on putting in money until at least the summer.

The city council also said it is trying to claw back tens of thousands of pounds of external funding which is being held by Waygood.

A spokeswoman for Waygood said: "The confirmation of disinvestment by the Arts Council England, North East is very disappointing for staff, board and artists at Waygood."

The Wards building on High Bridge was bought by Newcastle City Council in 1999 for pounds 1.7m, with pounds 3m earmarked for refurbishing and a planned opening date in 2005. But numerous delays saw the project pushed back by five years, with the cost of redevelopment rising to more than pounds 10m.

Waygood was dropped as the operator after a turbulent year in which Waygood's chief executive was the subject of an unfair dismissal tribunal by a former employee and an independent review concluded bosses had insufficient management skills.

Board members have previously said the organisation was made a fall-guy for the overspend.

Despite saying it will look for another operator, the city council will continue to fund Waygood until artists who wanted a studio in the new building have moved in. But culture bosses are negotiating with Waygood over tens of thousands of pounds of external funds which were released to the capital project but which it is holding.

Tony Durcan, the city council's head of culture, said: "Now it's all about how we move forward to make this a very successful facility." Alison Clark-Jenkins, regional director for the Arts Council, said: "This is not a decision we've come to lightly."
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 2, 2010
Words:366
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