Museums could miss out on €6.2bn - Museums Association

Museums could miss out on €6.2bn

Little evidence of Local Enterprise Partnerships engaging with museums. Patrick Steel reports
Patrick Steel
Museums are in danger of losing out on access to €6.2bn (£5.2bn) of European funding as England’s 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) submit their Structural and Investment Fund strategies (SIFS) at the end of this month.

The SIFS set out how the €6.2bn, combining the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), will be allocated by LEPs over a seven-year period from 2014.

Funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development will also be included in the SIFS and allocated by LEPs, although the amount has yet to be determined.

EAFRD funding priorities for rural development that are relevant to museums include: investments for public use in recreational infrastructure; tourist information and signposting of tourist sites; small-scale tourism infrastructure; and development and/or marketing of tourism services relating to rural tourism.

LEP network manager Lorna Gibbons says the funding is different for each area, but if museums can link themselves to EU themes, then the funding is there.

But Declan Baharini, partnership coordinator at NewcastleGateshead Cultural Venues, which is working with the North East LEP on behalf of a consortium of cultural organisations including Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, says that people don’t seem to be engaged with the consultation into the LEP’s strategy.

If the strategy doesn’t match your sector, then you will be hard pressed to get any of this funding. The danger is that culture will be hived off to local authorities and not dealt with by the EU.”

According to Bill Ferris, the director of Historic Dockyard Chatham in Kent and a council member of the Association of Independent Museums, there is little evidence of direct engagement by LEPs with the museum sector in developing their plans.

Paul Bristow, director of strategic partnerships at Arts Council England (ACE), says the organisation is having “high-level” conversations with LEPs that in come cases would involve Peter Bazalgette, the chairman of the arts council.

Bristow says the arts council is carrying out an intelligence survey into LEPs that either “get culture” or “get tourism but not culture, where we can knock on the door and have a conversation with them”. It will be working with the LEP network in March to identify LEPs that have culture on their agenda and “put them alongside those that haven’t”.

Asked whether March was too late, given that the strategies are to be signed off this month, Bristow says: “It is a long game over the life of the funding. It is important that the sector makes the case for culture and we are doing that now. But as the strategies are implemented, there will be further opportunities, so the sector should continue [making the case] over the next seven years.”

The Baltic Centre is being represented to the North East LEP by Newcastle-Gateshead Cultural Venues

ERDF/ESF priorities

  • Innovation.
  • Information and communications technology.
  • SME competitiveness.
  • Low carbon.
  • Climate change adaption.
  • Environmental protection.
  • Sustainable transport.
  • Employment.
  • Social inclusion.
  • Skills.

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