I assure the Deputy the Department has been kept fully informed of this issue at all stages. Under the Arts Act 2003, the Arts Council is a statutory body under the aegis of my Department. As such, it is obliged to observe the 2016 code of practice for the governance of State bodies, which requires such bodies to "serve the interests of Government as shareholder, the taxpayer, and all other stakeholders, and pursue value for money in their endeavours". The council's obligations under the code of governance are encapsulated in an annual oversight agreement and an annual programme delivery agreement with the Department. The oversight agreement and the delivery agreement are signed each year by the chair and the director, respectively.
All of the Arts Council's expenditure is subject to value for money concerns. This includes the cost of the premises occupied by the council. It is incumbent on the council to keep expenditure on all outgoings under constant review to ensure best value for taxpayers' money. If the business case for any decision on the Arts Council's accommodation has been properly prepared by the time it reaches the board, it will include at least three options. It would be unrealistic and simplistic to assume that the decision revolves around the annual rent only. A proper business case should cover all the costs arising over an extended period of up to several decades. It would properly incorporate all costs including but not confined to rent, energy, insurance, repairs and maintenance, changes in regulations and service charges. In addition, every State agency should have due regard to sustainability and accessibility.
The Arts Council is a body corporate under section 8 of the Arts Act 2003. It has the power to acquire, hold and dispose of land and property with my consent and that of the Minister for Finance. To date, the council has not applied for such consent. I am confident that the Arts Council will comply with all requirements in appraising available options for its future accommodation needs. If the council does not examine options for alternative accommodation when the opportunity presents itself, it will not meet its obligations under the code of practice for the governance of State bodies.