Cuts lead to £4m less for museums - Museums Association

Cuts lead to £4m less for museums

Art council says it will have to be "smarter and more flexible" as it holds off announcing budgets for 2016-18 until it receives its grant-in-aid settlement. Patrick Steel reports
Patrick Steel
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Announcing its investment plans for 2015-18, Arts Council England (ACE) has said it will need to be “smarter and more flexible”.

This is one reason why it has announced headline budgets for 2015-16, but will not be announcing funding levels for 2016-17 or 2017-18 until it receives its grant-in-aid settlement.

ACE’s director of museums, John Orna-Ornstein, says the organisation is assuming a level settlement for those years, but will have to respond if the figures change.

Since ACE took over the museum portfolio, government cuts have led to the total funding pot for museums falling by £4m from £46m a year in 2012-13 to £42m for 2015-16. Of this, £21.5m will go to Major Partner Museums, £10.5m to the Museums Strategic Budget and £10m to a new Open Access Fund.

New fund

From 2015, the Strategic Support Fund will be replaced by the £10m Open Access Fund. ACE will finalise the details of this fund and model it across the country over the coming months, but Museums Journal understands that it will have a particular focus on resilience.

Strategic Support Fund grants ranged from £30,000 to £300,000, but grants for the new fund will start from £15,000 as ACE is keen to “make what limited funds we have available to a wider range of museums”, says Orna-Ornstein.

This could also result in the funds being awarded twice a year or quarterly. The Open Access Fund will launch in October.

Several existing funds, including the Museum Development Fund, V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Accreditation and Designation will be rolled into the £10.5m Museums Strategic Budget.

Only the museum development allocation of £3m has been announced; the application process will be the same as previously. The Museums Strategic Budget will also fund other strategic priorities such as international work and digital work.

Funds for Major Partner Museums have risen by about £750,000 to £21.5m in 2015-16. ACE has advised current major partner museums that if they reapply, they should not expect a funding increase, suggesting there may be room for more than the current 16 museums and consortia.

Leadership role

The application guidelines place an emphasis on applicants demonstrating how they would play a leadership role in the wider museum sector, either in a geographical area or in an area of expertise that has national relevance.

It explicitly states that leadership is more than just being a provider of museum development. Applications to the major partner museum fund close on 17 March.

Waiting game


Some decisions on funding will not be made until after 2015. ACE is also in talks with trusts, foundations and other sector organisations to look at ways to make existing funding go further, whether through match-funding, combined funding or a delegated grants programme.

It means that funding allocations are not ringfenced, recognising a degree of uncertainty about the funding landscape after 2015-16.

Several galleries will also be affected by changes to funding for National Portfolio Organisations that will see £271m of grant-in-aid and about £60m of National Lottery funding awarded in 2015-16.

Dave O’Brien, a lecturer in cultural studies at London’s City University, points out that the use of lottery funds in this way breaches the “spirit if not the letter” of legislation governing the principle that lottery funding should always be additional to core funding. He adds that DCMS should be providing leadership on this.

But ACE chief executive Alan Davey has stated he is “confident” that the approach does not breach the principle.

Museum funding

  • £46m/year 2012-13
  • £42m/year 2015-16
  • Of the £42m, £21.5m will go to Major Partner Museums, £10.5m to the Museums Strategic Budget and £10m to a new Open Access Fund. 
  • Funds for MPMs will rise by about £750,000 to £21.5m in 2015-16.


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