Ken Skates

Welsh government refuses to rule out heritage merger

Patrick Steel, 05.04.2017
Ken Skates tells assembly he is "open to options"
Ken Skates, the cabinet secretary for economy and infrastructure in Wales, refused to rule out a merger between Cadw and Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales (NMW) to create Historic Wales.

He told the National Assembly for Wales yesterday he is “open to options considering what is best for Cadw and the entire sector”.

The government will examine the business case for a number of options, he said, and would announce its preferred course of action by 30 September.

And in a letter on 30 March to Justin Albert, the director of National Trust Wales and the chair of a steering group that produced a report on the proposal, which rejected the merger and recommended instead that Cadw become either a charitable body or an executive agency outside of government working in strategic partnership with national institutions, Skates stated: “I would not, at this stage, want to focus simply on the two options identified in the report… it is imperative that we test all options thoroughly against the status quo of retaining Cadw within government.”

Dai Lloyd, an AM and member of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, said: “I am happy to support the cooperation between bodies, but we need to safeguard their independence. The steering group’s message was clear, there is potential for a strategic partnership, but it needs to respect the freedom and independence of those organisations. Talk of a formal merger creates uncertainty for those in the sector.”

When asked whether there would be additional funding for the strategic partnership, Skates said: “We are looking at the cost of the business case and I am prepared to contribute more to this exercise. But the longer term point is to maximise the commercial potential of the sector so I don’t see a reason why additional resource would be required.

“But as a result of this great step forwards we would be able to increase profits, increase income, and strengthen the sector, grow jobs and secure skills that are in the sector at the moment.”

A spokeswoman for NMW, which was represented on the steering group, said: "Since the discussions around Historic Wales began, we have advocated for a model such as the strategic partnership that respects the independence and, importantly, the role of Wales' national institutions, which contribute significantly to cultural life in Wales.

"We will now work with the other partners, within the resources available to us, to take forward the recommendations of the steering group."

Sharon Heal, the Museums Association’s director, said: "It is good to see the minister has responded to the Historic Wales steering group, however my concern would be that a merger of Historic Wales and Cadw still seems to be on the table when this option was discounted by the group in its report. It is also of concern that no additional funding has been earmarked for any partnership going forward.

"All museums are striving hard to increase their commercial income in these challenging times and partnership working can definitely help to maximise revenue.

"But there are also other key ways in which museums can contribute to local and national agendas, in particular working with their communities, enhancing health and wellbeing and creating better places for us to live and work.

"National Museums Wales has been at the forefront of this work, including helping to tackle child poverty by providing better life chances for children in Wales and that should be recognised and celebrated by government alongside the economic impact the museum creates."

The Welsh government has commissioned a separate independent review of the strategy and operations of NMW, announced in February, which is ongoing. The government is also working on a strategy to provide a framework for the sector until 2020.