MP calls for inquiry into Art Asia 'lost' £750k grant

The Southampton Mela is organised by Art Asia

The Southampton Mela is organised by Art Asia

First published in News Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Parliamentary Correspondent

MINISTERS have agreed to meet a community arts group which lost hundreds of thousands of pounds in Government grants.

An independent inquiry could also be set up to look at the case of Art Asia, which was left £750,000 out of pocket after being frozen out of Southampton’s new arts centre project.

John Denham, Labour MP for Southampton Itchen, used a Westminster Hall debate to raise “serious concerns” about the way the charity had been treated, telling MPs it was time to put the problems “on the record”.

He said: “Having been offered a capital grant to develop new facili ties, Art Asia today faces the loss of this grant through a murky and underhand process to which they have had no chance to respond.”

The row centres on a grant Art Asia received in 2001 from the Arts Council, which it agreed to put into the arts centre project, after receiving a “pretty clear commitment” that it would be given a share of the complex.

Mr Denham told MPs: “Maybe Art Asia were a little naive at this stage, assuming that the Arts Council and the city council would act with good faith and integrity.”

In 2010, it became clear that the Arts Council wanted to exclude Art Asia from its central role in the project, Mr Denham said.

Mr Denham described internal council memos, obtain-ed using the Freedom of Information Act, reporting “grave doubts about Art Asia’s artistic quality and sustainability.”

But these concerns were not shared with Art Asia, he said, adding: “It is clear that decisions were being taken behind the scenes that Art Asia was not aware of, and to which they could not respond.”

The Arts Council responded to the criticism yesterday by saying that it had worked hard to ensure good communication with Art Asia.

A spokesman said: “Art Asia is a member of our national portfolio and as such we believe it makes an important and valued contribution to Southampton’s cultural life.

“The Arts Council has strived to ensure good communication with the organisation is maintained and we is confident that Art Asia and Southampton City Council can reach a positive conclusion about the role that Art Asia will play in the success of the Southampton new arts complex.”

Conservative councillor Royston Smith, who was leader of Southamp-ton City Council when Art Asia were excluded from the scheme, said that John Denham had put the whole project at risk by raising it at Westminster.

He added: “It’s not anything to do with Southampton City Council – we haven’t frozen Art Asia out and we never did.

“It’s the Arts Council that’s given the grant and they determine how that’s spent.

“This was an irresponsible political knockabout on John Denham’s part and it risks derailing the whole project and losing something that will be fantastic for Southamp-ton.”

In re-sponse, Mr Denham has called on the Conservative leader to apologise for his part in the “murky affair”.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has also said that “some form of independent review” might be worthwhile to see whether Mr Denham’s criticism is justified.

Mr Vaizey invited the Arts Council, city council, Art Asia and Southampton MPs to a meeting to try and sort out the issue.

Art Asia has welcomed the decision to get all the parties involved around the table.

Comments (17)

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11:09am Sat 26 May 12

aldermoorboy says...

Is this Denham, who wasted £xxxxxxx of our money
Is this Denham, who wasted £xxxxxxx of our money aldermoorboy
  • Score: 0

11:53am Sat 26 May 12

southy says...

aldermoorboy wrote:
Is this Denham, who wasted £xxxxxxx of our money
No it was not, Demham bought up a matter that what your Torys Council was doing behind close doors.
[quote][p][bold]aldermoorboy[/bold] wrote: Is this Denham, who wasted £xxxxxxx of our money[/p][/quote]No it was not, Demham bought up a matter that what your Torys Council was doing behind close doors. southy
  • Score: 0

12:00pm Sat 26 May 12

Condor Man says...

aldermoorboy wrote:
Is this Denham, who wasted £xxxxxxx of our money
he likes doing that, look at the white elephant at East Point. He was the minister in charge of Higher Education funding at the time when Itchen College tried to move there. The money suddenly dried up, leaving East Point to go it alone. I'd be surprised if it lasts out the decade.
[quote][p][bold]aldermoorboy[/bold] wrote: Is this Denham, who wasted £xxxxxxx of our money[/p][/quote]he likes doing that, look at the white elephant at East Point. He was the minister in charge of Higher Education funding at the time when Itchen College tried to move there. The money suddenly dried up, leaving East Point to go it alone. I'd be surprised if it lasts out the decade. Condor Man
  • Score: 0

12:36pm Sat 26 May 12

Paramjit Bahia says...

Tribalism has become important part of our political class’s DNA. In John Denham’s case it also contains opportunism and hunger for headlines
.
I may be wrong, but have the feeling that John has started muttering about this subject for three reasons:
a) Publicity for himself.
b) People involved in Art Asia have friends within reactionary elements of NuLabour.
c) Provides him chance to pick holes in Conservative government, otherwise his own party was in power for long enough (at both national and local levels) and Art Asia has been around even longer than that, if John really cares about this organisation why he could not have got the situation sorted out that time?
.
Personally speaking I am wondering about John’s priorities, before start criticising Tories should he not be making sure that his own NuLabour is squeaky clean? Why does he always run away from criticising his own party’s people in prominent places who behave less than honourably?

He stayed silent when I informed him about his party member exploiting NHS resources for her political campaign, when he was at Department of Health. Said nothing when a NuLabour councillor abused her position to get confidential personal record of somebody for politically exploiting the info against that person within their own party. His party’s councillor wrote false letters as Chair of a Council committee for securing business for one of his Tory (Oh yes that is correct) mates but we never heard anything from John Denham
.
Even now one of his party’s prominent councillor has confessed that he ‘LIED’ and deliberately misled both press and public, but senior figure of local NuLabour is conveniently quite. Why is he not shouting from the roof tops and demanding immediate expulsion of self confessed liar from his party and open enquiry into Leader of Southampton Council in that “Murky affair”. Or do the affair only become “Murky” for John Denham when Tories may be involved?
Tribalism has become important part of our political class’s DNA. In John Denham’s case it also contains opportunism and hunger for headlines . I may be wrong, but have the feeling that John has started muttering about this subject for three reasons: a) Publicity for himself. b) People involved in Art Asia have friends within reactionary elements of NuLabour. c) Provides him chance to pick holes in Conservative government, otherwise his own party was in power for long enough (at both national and local levels) and Art Asia has been around even longer than that, if John really cares about this organisation why he could not have got the situation sorted out that time? . Personally speaking I am wondering about John’s priorities, before start criticising Tories should he not be making sure that his own NuLabour is squeaky clean? Why does he always run away from criticising his own party’s people in prominent places who behave less than honourably? He stayed silent when I informed him about his party member exploiting NHS resources for her political campaign, when he was at Department of Health. Said nothing when a NuLabour councillor abused her position to get confidential personal record of somebody for politically exploiting the info against that person within their own party. His party’s councillor wrote false letters as Chair of a Council committee for securing business for one of his Tory (Oh yes that is correct) mates but we never heard anything from John Denham . Even now one of his party’s prominent councillor has confessed that he ‘LIED’ and deliberately misled both press and public, but senior figure of local NuLabour is conveniently quite. Why is he not shouting from the roof tops and demanding immediate expulsion of self confessed liar from his party and open enquiry into Leader of Southampton Council in that “Murky affair”. Or do the affair only become “Murky” for John Denham when Tories may be involved? Paramjit Bahia
  • Score: 0

12:54pm Sat 26 May 12

Paramjit Bahia says...

Condor Man wrote:
aldermoorboy wrote:
Is this Denham, who wasted £xxxxxxx of our money
he likes doing that, look at the white elephant at East Point. He was the minister in charge of Higher Education funding at the time when Itchen College tried to move there. The money suddenly dried up, leaving East Point to go it alone. I'd be surprised if it lasts out the decade.
CM, despite current economic climate according to my information East Point is doing OK. So I think it will be there for a very long time
.
Yes you may be right about why Itchen College could not move there. My info on that is bit patchy but something on those lines did happen
.
East Point is an excellent facility, It was John Denham’s brain child and he has always taken lot of interest in it and helped where ever he possibly can. So credit must be given to John when due. Politically John Denham may be dodgy but he is exceptionally good at helping his constituents with their personal problems.
[quote][p][bold]Condor Man[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]aldermoorboy[/bold] wrote: Is this Denham, who wasted £xxxxxxx of our money[/p][/quote]he likes doing that, look at the white elephant at East Point. He was the minister in charge of Higher Education funding at the time when Itchen College tried to move there. The money suddenly dried up, leaving East Point to go it alone. I'd be surprised if it lasts out the decade.[/p][/quote]CM, despite current economic climate according to my information East Point is doing OK. So I think it will be there for a very long time . Yes you may be right about why Itchen College could not move there. My info on that is bit patchy but something on those lines did happen . East Point is an excellent facility, It was John Denham’s brain child and he has always taken lot of interest in it and helped where ever he possibly can. So credit must be given to John when due. Politically John Denham may be dodgy but he is exceptionally good at helping his constituents with their personal problems. Paramjit Bahia
  • Score: 0

1:59pm Sat 26 May 12

Verloren Hoop says...

A Labour MP complaining about a Tory Council, whatever next!
A Labour MP complaining about a Tory Council, whatever next! Verloren Hoop
  • Score: 0

2:28pm Sat 26 May 12

sabre2th1 says...

Paramjit Bahia wrote:
Condor Man wrote:
aldermoorboy wrote:
Is this Denham, who wasted £xxxxxxx of our money
he likes doing that, look at the white elephant at East Point. He was the minister in charge of Higher Education funding at the time when Itchen College tried to move there. The money suddenly dried up, leaving East Point to go it alone. I'd be surprised if it lasts out the decade.
CM, despite current economic climate according to my information East Point is doing OK. So I think it will be there for a very long time
.
Yes you may be right about why Itchen College could not move there. My info on that is bit patchy but something on those lines did happen
.
East Point is an excellent facility, It was John Denham’s brain child and he has always taken lot of interest in it and helped where ever he possibly can. So credit must be given to John when due. Politically John Denham may be dodgy but he is exceptionally good at helping his constituents with their personal problems.
Im sorry, but what exactly is the point of east point?
[quote][p][bold]Paramjit Bahia[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Condor Man[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]aldermoorboy[/bold] wrote: Is this Denham, who wasted £xxxxxxx of our money[/p][/quote]he likes doing that, look at the white elephant at East Point. He was the minister in charge of Higher Education funding at the time when Itchen College tried to move there. The money suddenly dried up, leaving East Point to go it alone. I'd be surprised if it lasts out the decade.[/p][/quote]CM, despite current economic climate according to my information East Point is doing OK. So I think it will be there for a very long time . Yes you may be right about why Itchen College could not move there. My info on that is bit patchy but something on those lines did happen . East Point is an excellent facility, It was John Denham’s brain child and he has always taken lot of interest in it and helped where ever he possibly can. So credit must be given to John when due. Politically John Denham may be dodgy but he is exceptionally good at helping his constituents with their personal problems.[/p][/quote]Im sorry, but what exactly is the point of east point? sabre2th1
  • Score: 0

3:15pm Sat 26 May 12

loosehead says...

Surely this is the Art council's fault?
Is Denham doing the councils job for them? by bringing this up in Parliament the Art Council withdraws the funds & no new Arts Complex so just another good thing the Tories were doing for this city stopped by a Corrupt local Labour Council & it's attack dog Denham.
Miracle he didn't jump on the bandwagon over Townhill park
Surely this is the Art council's fault? Is Denham doing the councils job for them? by bringing this up in Parliament the Art Council withdraws the funds & no new Arts Complex so just another good thing the Tories were doing for this city stopped by a Corrupt local Labour Council & it's attack dog Denham. Miracle he didn't jump on the bandwagon over Townhill park loosehead
  • Score: 0

5:23pm Sat 26 May 12

OceansofRed says...

Well John know there's a labour council so you'll have to talk to them won't you?
Well John know there's a labour council so you'll have to talk to them won't you? OceansofRed
  • Score: 0

5:42pm Sat 26 May 12

Gainer T Gopher says...

so would there have been all this fuss if the Englishman Arts Council had their grant cut..... oh no hang on, that wouldn't be allowed as it would be classed as being racist....
so would there have been all this fuss if the Englishman Arts Council had their grant cut..... oh no hang on, that wouldn't be allowed as it would be classed as being racist.... Gainer T Gopher
  • Score: 0

6:04am Sun 27 May 12

The Salv says...

Why cant they just do what every other English group would have had to had done and raise the money themselve. These groups are just take take take. Same with those Mosques built with hand outs and now families are fighting out ownership for it. Dont trust them.
Why cant they just do what every other English group would have had to had done and raise the money themselve. These groups are just take take take. Same with those Mosques built with hand outs and now families are fighting out ownership for it. Dont trust them. The Salv
  • Score: 0

8:26am Sun 27 May 12

loosehead says...

With your local party looking a total sham & the possibility of Labour losing it's two MP's Denham does this?
He's trying for the Asian vote for Labour & in doing so will he end up losing us the Art Council's grant?
It's title is Art Asia but it really should be called Art India.
My wife is Thai they hold a Thai festival & have nothing to do with Art Asia yet are classified as Asian,
this is a minority group who feel they are far more important than they are & Denham is playing on that feeling to gain supporters in the Indian ethnic group
With your local party looking a total sham & the possibility of Labour losing it's two MP's Denham does this? He's trying for the Asian vote for Labour & in doing so will he end up losing us the Art Council's grant? It's title is Art Asia but it really should be called Art India. My wife is Thai they hold a Thai festival & have nothing to do with Art Asia yet are classified as Asian, this is a minority group who feel they are far more important than they are & Denham is playing on that feeling to gain supporters in the Indian ethnic group loosehead
  • Score: 0

9:05am Sun 27 May 12

freemantlegirl2 says...

The Salv wrote:
Why cant they just do what every other English group would have had to had done and raise the money themselve. These groups are just take take take. Same with those Mosques built with hand outs and now families are fighting out ownership for it. Dont trust them.
You really are an ignoramous. Art Asia has NOTHING to do with religion, mosques or otherwise. Try and learn the difference between religion and culture will you. We ARE a multi-cultural society whether 'you' like it or not....

As for Art Asia, they have just done some AMAZING work in my sons' school - the staff were incredible and would be sorely missed as an organisation in Southampton. I do agree with JD in that I think they were niave in their approach, but think an inquiry could be a good idea as long as it doesn't cost even more money. The full facts need to be out into the open. The Cultural Quarter, I believe, is poorer without AA's involvement.
[quote][p][bold]The Salv[/bold] wrote: Why cant they just do what every other English group would have had to had done and raise the money themselve. These groups are just take take take. Same with those Mosques built with hand outs and now families are fighting out ownership for it. Dont trust them.[/p][/quote]You really are an ignoramous. Art Asia has NOTHING to do with religion, mosques or otherwise. Try and learn the difference between religion and culture will you. We ARE a multi-cultural society whether 'you' like it or not.... As for Art Asia, they have just done some AMAZING work in my sons' school - the staff were incredible and would be sorely missed as an organisation in Southampton. I do agree with JD in that I think they were niave in their approach, but think an inquiry could be a good idea as long as it doesn't cost even more money. The full facts need to be out into the open. The Cultural Quarter, I believe, is poorer without AA's involvement. freemantlegirl2
  • Score: 0

11:57am Sun 27 May 12

loosehead says...

freemantlegirl2 wrote:
The Salv wrote:
Why cant they just do what every other English group would have had to had done and raise the money themselve. These groups are just take take take. Same with those Mosques built with hand outs and now families are fighting out ownership for it. Dont trust them.
You really are an ignoramous. Art Asia has NOTHING to do with religion, mosques or otherwise. Try and learn the difference between religion and culture will you. We ARE a multi-cultural society whether 'you' like it or not....

As for Art Asia, they have just done some AMAZING work in my sons' school - the staff were incredible and would be sorely missed as an organisation in Southampton. I do agree with JD in that I think they were niave in their approach, but think an inquiry could be a good idea as long as it doesn't cost even more money. The full facts need to be out into the open. The Cultural Quarter, I believe, is poorer without AA's involvement.
So do you think Denhams intervention is a good thing? do you think it will be good if the Art council withdraw it's funding after this announcement?
Should all the other participants in the Art Complex/Cultural quarter lose out because of Art Asia & Denhams actions?
[quote][p][bold]freemantlegirl2[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]The Salv[/bold] wrote: Why cant they just do what every other English group would have had to had done and raise the money themselve. These groups are just take take take. Same with those Mosques built with hand outs and now families are fighting out ownership for it. Dont trust them.[/p][/quote]You really are an ignoramous. Art Asia has NOTHING to do with religion, mosques or otherwise. Try and learn the difference between religion and culture will you. We ARE a multi-cultural society whether 'you' like it or not.... As for Art Asia, they have just done some AMAZING work in my sons' school - the staff were incredible and would be sorely missed as an organisation in Southampton. I do agree with JD in that I think they were niave in their approach, but think an inquiry could be a good idea as long as it doesn't cost even more money. The full facts need to be out into the open. The Cultural Quarter, I believe, is poorer without AA's involvement.[/p][/quote]So do you think Denhams intervention is a good thing? do you think it will be good if the Art council withdraw it's funding after this announcement? Should all the other participants in the Art Complex/Cultural quarter lose out because of Art Asia & Denhams actions? loosehead
  • Score: 0

8:52pm Sun 27 May 12

SotonGreen says...

Almost any other theft of such a large sum of money would see someone behind bars. I can't see why this should be different
Almost any other theft of such a large sum of money would see someone behind bars. I can't see why this should be different SotonGreen
  • Score: 0

8:55pm Sun 27 May 12

The Salv says...

freemantlegirl2 wrote:
The Salv wrote:
Why cant they just do what every other English group would have had to had done and raise the money themselve. These groups are just take take take. Same with those Mosques built with hand outs and now families are fighting out ownership for it. Dont trust them.
You really are an ignoramous. Art Asia has NOTHING to do with religion, mosques or otherwise. Try and learn the difference between religion and culture will you. We ARE a multi-cultural society whether 'you' like it or not....

As for Art Asia, they have just done some AMAZING work in my sons' school - the staff were incredible and would be sorely missed as an organisation in Southampton. I do agree with JD in that I think they were niave in their approach, but think an inquiry could be a good idea as long as it doesn't cost even more money. The full facts need to be out into the open. The Cultural Quarter, I believe, is poorer without AA's involvement.
In your opinion... which is worth nout
[quote][p][bold]freemantlegirl2[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]The Salv[/bold] wrote: Why cant they just do what every other English group would have had to had done and raise the money themselve. These groups are just take take take. Same with those Mosques built with hand outs and now families are fighting out ownership for it. Dont trust them.[/p][/quote]You really are an ignoramous. Art Asia has NOTHING to do with religion, mosques or otherwise. Try and learn the difference between religion and culture will you. We ARE a multi-cultural society whether 'you' like it or not.... As for Art Asia, they have just done some AMAZING work in my sons' school - the staff were incredible and would be sorely missed as an organisation in Southampton. I do agree with JD in that I think they were niave in their approach, but think an inquiry could be a good idea as long as it doesn't cost even more money. The full facts need to be out into the open. The Cultural Quarter, I believe, is poorer without AA's involvement.[/p][/quote]In your opinion... which is worth nout The Salv
  • Score: 0

4:18pm Tue 29 May 12

MonthofMays says...

Art Asia are funded by the Arts Council as an arts organisation, as are another 190 companies across the country and I think 3 in Southampton. They are also funded by Southampton City Council as are several arts organisations. Over ten years ago they were giving a grant they put that grant into moving into southampton's arts complex. They are now told they aren't in with no money back or explanation.

I'm not very political (as you may of guessed!) but I'm glad someone is asking the questions, because it's has been going on for a while and is still very unclear.

To me it seems simple, if I invested £750,000 in a flat lets say, then was told I couldn't move in or get my money back, but if found more money could pop in every now and again. I would want answers at least. It really is no more complicated than that.

Saying it is endangering £21 mil project seems like mud throwing, the building is still a while off and not all the funds are in place yet, to raise that money again could be put into place or if SCC said OK you're back in for the value of £750,000 I'm sure Art Asia would be over the moon as would many of the arts community that support them.

This isn't a discussion about if they should be given money, it was already theirs, neither is it time for us to decide if we would give it to them, the Arts Council made that decision 10 years ago. If they hadn't invested in the complex, they would of spent it or done with it as other arts companies have. The discussion should be who has the right/power to take that cash without consultation or explanation not only to the company but the public.
Art Asia are funded by the Arts Council as an arts organisation, as are another 190 companies across the country and I think 3 in Southampton. They are also funded by Southampton City Council as are several arts organisations. Over ten years ago they were giving a grant they put that grant into moving into southampton's arts complex. They are now told they aren't in with no money back or explanation. I'm not very political (as you may of guessed!) but I'm glad someone is asking the questions, because it's has been going on for a while and is still very unclear. To me it seems simple, if I invested £750,000 in a flat lets say, then was told I couldn't move in or get my money back, but if found more money could pop in every now and again. I would want answers at least. It really is no more complicated than that. Saying it is endangering £21 mil project seems like mud throwing, the building is still a while off and not all the funds are in place yet, to raise that money again could be put into place or if SCC said OK you're back in for the value of £750,000 I'm sure Art Asia would be over the moon as would many of the arts community that support them. This isn't a discussion about if they should be given money, it was already theirs, neither is it time for us to decide if we would give it to them, the Arts Council made that decision 10 years ago. If they hadn't invested in the complex, they would of spent it or done with it as other arts companies have. The discussion should be who has the right/power to take that cash without consultation or explanation not only to the company but the public. MonthofMays
  • Score: 0

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