COLCHESTER'S Firstsite gallery has had its biggest funding source scrapped.

The Arts Council today confirmed it had pulled the plug on £2.4million it pledged to give to the gallery for three years due to "continuing concerns" surrounding its sustainability.

The beleaguered venue has instead been given a £800,000 lifeline from the Arts Council for the next year.

However, the gallery has to reach a series of “rigorous milestones” including a new business plan and a restructure of its board and staff to safeguard its future.

Firstsite and the English National Opera were just organisations which will not be included in the Arts Council's 'national portfolio'.

Althea Efunshile, Acting Chief Executive for Arts Council England said: “The Arts Council’s role is to ensure that we get the best value for the taxpayer’s money by investing in well run companies who delight audiences with brilliant work.

“With the very occasional exception, all the organisations we fund do just that.

“No one is doubting that ENO is capable of extraordinary artistic work but we have serious concerns about their governance and business model and we expect them to improve or they could face the removal of our funding. The challenges are similar for Firstsite.

“However, we believe these organisations can inspire audiences long into the future and it is our hope and expectation that this happens.”

Instead Firstsite has now been offered a year-long special funding arrangement in which the Arts Council will monitor.

After that, the Arts Council will decide whether to provide Firstsite with around another £800,000.

See Friday's Gazette for the full story and reaction.