Arm’s Length Data?

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I’ve spent today looking up the 2019 Annual Reports of all the Arm’s Length Organisations that DCMS gives grant-in-aid funding to. I’ve put some figures I think are involved in my learning about Who Needs It Less?

I’ve made a Google spreadsheet called DCMS Arm’s Length Orgs snapshot – 2018-2019, and anyone can view with this link. Please tread carefully! THERE MAY BE ERRORS. This is rough work, comments welcome!

These are big numbers. I’ve collated a few different fields per organisation I think are interesting:

  • Total income (for that year)
  • Total expenditure
  • Net income (which may be in the red)
  • Fixed assets (which likely include tangible, intangible, heritage, and certain types of investments)
  • Current assets (like stocks, debtors or cash)
  • Grant-in-aid figure if I could find it in the Annual Report (and there’s a second sheet in the spreadsheet that gets that number per org from a doc I found from Parliament, which is linked as the source)
  • Endowment if that figure is noted separately

From this basic by-hand aggregation, you can see stuff like the BBC’s Total Income in 2018 was £4,889,000,000 or National Gallery had the highest Net Income at £15,400,000.

Then I added two % calculations:

  1. Current Assets as a percentage of the Total Income for that year, and
  2. Grant-in-aid as a percentage of the Total Income for that year

Now, I’m not stating anything resembling an approach to trying to figure out which orgs to support and how, but, I’m wondering about these two percentage figures… could they be some measure of health or stability? As Frankie rightly commented on my previous post about this, the Fixed Assets held by our great institutions are probably basically irrelevant, since they’re practically priceless. But maybe if you can say something like the Imperial War Museum has Current Assets that could cover about 64% of its annual income, does that get us anywhere? Or that Royal Armouries has 12% coverage from its Current Assets?

What if we look for orgs that have current (or, more fluid) assets that cover less than 20% of their annual income for 2018 and help them first? Or 50%? Better yet, we could filter that list to deliberately favour BAME and LGBT and disabled-led orgs.

What if the government (and our society) is able to seize this moment to actively work against the preferential structures in its own system? It could actively generate assets for littlies. Grant them 1-3 years equivalent to their 2018 income, and give them an endowment equal to the average of the Arm’s Length orgs, which by my rough calculations is 47% of 2018 income in the bank. That would be a reflection of the healthy situation DCMS has built with their Arm’s Length program, would it not?

I thought I’d have a look at NPOs next, poking at that Current Assets idea. It can be enlightening to see who has no wealth, when that’s such a marker of systemic exclusion.

Notes on data creation:

  • I’ve left comments on cells if something odd or there’s extra info or detail
  • Sources are individual org’s annual reports, linked in Column B
  • If there’s an overarching group, I’ve used that number
  • Director’s Pay is the total package, salary + pension etc
  • DCMS grant in aid is as noted in the annual report
  • I’ve basically looked for what appears to be the same numbers across all the annual report documents – that’s mostly the Balance Sheet and Financial Statements
  • If I’ve left a cell (or row, in the case of the BBC) blank, that means it’s too hard for me to find or process or put into this structure


  1. Nice work – I love a good spreadsheet, and I bet this information has never been compared in this way before. (The tyranny of data buried in PDFs!)

    I only looked a few of the reports, but the way that they “value” their collections is kinda curious. They all seem to only bother to ‘capitalise’ objects that have been acquired since April 2001, above a varying threshold, valuing them at either the purchase price or some assessed price, with the value fixed in time forever (no depreciation. Which probably tells us very little about the overall value of their collections (which must be 95+% acquired before 2001?) but does tell us something about how much new stuff they’ve been able to collect in the past couple of decades?

    This was another intriguing snippet from the BM report:

    > In 2016/17, one item from the collection valued at £750,000 was declared lost under the Procedure for the Reporting of Unlocated and Lost Objects. It was written-off in the accounts.


    I think you’re right that current assets (mostly seems to be cash in bank and money owed?) vs income tells us something. Although perhaps it would be fairer to compare net current liabilities, as some of that cash may have already been spent.

    I bet the National Portfolio Organisations will be interesting. I’m always shocked at how much the Royal Opera House gets…

    1. I know! I thought I’d give DCMS a ring and ask them for their up-to-date list of unique arts & culture related organisations across the UK.

      I think you’ll find that with the big museums (and remember that’s only one type of arts org!), the value placed on the collection will be smaller than you think in most cases, especially for the imperial museums, because most of their assets are in real estate. The BM owns most of Bloomsbury, and if memory serves, their collection is listed as about 6% of their overall wealth.

      I’ve been thinking about the difference between what I referred to as “stable” in the first post in this blog, and “wealthy”. I think “wealthy” is a better word. Now we just have to figure out “wealthy” actually means if you can’t spend it, and yet, is still something that not everyone can have.

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