Local authority officials have revealed publicly for the first time details of #5 million handouts to major Birmingham arts organisations.

City council lawyers traditionally insist on keeping secret the size of grants given to bodies such as the CBSO and the Birmingham Royal Ballet - even though both organisations publish details of all income sources in their annual reports.

Following a Freedom of Information Act request by The Birmingham Post, a breakdown of awards to 12 organisations has been disclosed by the council.

The climbdown came days after a scrutiny committee agreed to discuss details of grants to major arts organisations in private because the information was deemed "commercially sensitive".

A cabinet discussion about the award of grants for 2006/07 was also held behind closed doors.

Council deputy leader Paul Tilsley claimed that the approach of Birmingham's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition towards the arts had been more generous and inclusive than that of Labour when it ran the local authority.

However, it had proved impossible to judge Coun Tilsley's remarks until now since documents before the cabinet's public session made no mention of the amount of money being handed out, the identity of bodies receiving cash or the number of organisations involved.

The figures show the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra taking the lion's share of council grant money, at #1.2 million, while the Birmingham Royal Ballet is in second place with #1 million.

The smallest awards go to the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the South Asian arts development organisation SAMPAD and Audiences Central, an arts marketing organisation.

The award of grants will return to the cabinet next week for reconsideration after the scrutiny committee called for a re-think.

Members were concerned that a proposed 2.75 per cent increase in grants would be almost wiped out by the cabinet's demand that the 12 organisations also find 2.5 per cent savings as part of the Gershon efficiency agenda, which is being imposed on local authorities by the Government.

Ian Ward, deputy leader of the Labour group, said he could not understand why details of the grants had r emained confidential. Labour, when it ran the council, also refused to publish details, a decision which he said was taken following advice from local authority lawyers.

Coun Ward (Lab Shard End) said: "It is public money and should be in the public domain."

He warned that many arts organisations would struggle as a result of the below-inflation increase in their grants, adding: "Gershon savings are meant to be found through councils behaving more efficiently, not by passing on cuts to non-profit making bodies such as the CBSO."

Stephen Maddock, chief executive of the CBSO, said that a net quarter of a per cent increase in council grant would be substantially below the retail price index.

However, council funding represented less than one-fifth of the CBSO's annual #7.5 million income. The organisation also receives #2 million a year from the Arts Council.

Mr Maddock said: "We have had increases under RPI in the past and we just have to adjust our budgets accordingly. There is always some uncertainty about our income.

"The amount of money we receive each year is in our annual report. There is no secrecy about it."

Birmingham Royal Ballet declined to discuss income sources in advance of a final decision by the council cabinet.