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LDA funding under investigation

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The London Development Agency (LDA) is being investigated over its funding of six high-profile projects, including Herzog & de Meuron’s 2003 Stirling Prize-winning Laban Centre.

The London Assembly (LA), has commissioned auditor Deloitte to carry out the investigation, which will also look at the funding of Penoyre & Prasad’s Rich Mix Cultural Foundation in Bethnal Green and Adjaye/Associates’ Bernie Grant Centre in Tottenham.

The review was ordered on 13 December 2007 after a report to the LA’s Economic Development, Culture, Sport and Tourism Committee (EDCSTC) raised ‘serious issues’ about the LDA’s management procedures.

At an EDCSTC meeting in November 2007, Dee Doocey, chair of the committee, said: ‘The LDA’s management procedures were so poor that it is impossible to judge why they decided to fund some of the projects, and what the outcomes were.’

The investigation followed an EDCSTC review in August 2007 that found ‘significant gaps’ in the information supplied by the LDA, a claim dismissed by LDA chief executive Manny Lewis, who described the review as ‘flawed’. Lewis said: ‘The projects have been successful, and that is the key outcome.’

Deloitte will now carry out a more detailed review of the six projects, which will be made public in February at the next meeting of the EDCSTC.

At the meeting, the committee will ‘make recommendations’ to the LDA based on its findings.

The six schemes received £18 million from the LDA between 2001 and 2006 – a quarter of its funding for cultural projects. In that period the LDA funded a total of 61 projects at a cost of £70 million, 5 per cent of its net budget for the period.

A spokesman for Herzog & de Meuron said that the LDA funding had a ‘major impact’ on the success of the Laban Dance Centre and said it ‘would be terrible’ if it became more difficult for the LDA to fund such projects.

Doreen Foster, chief executive of Bernie Grant Arts Centre, said: ‘If architecture is going to reflect the changing demographics in the UK, then it is important that funding agencies continue to support projects like the Bernie Grant Centre’.

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