Local authorities spend 7% less on museum services

Nicola Sullivan, 06.10.2015
Research by ACE also highlights that skills remain a barrier to change
Expenditure by local authorities on museums services reduced by 7% between 2003-04 and 2013-14, according to research conducted by Arts Council England (ACE).

Its report, released last week, found that the amount spent by local authorities on broader culture and related services reduced by 10% during the same time period.

Although the research highlighted that to some extent museums and galleries had been protected from spending reductions, it warned that continued austerity measures meant that it was probable they would not be in the future. 

It also stated that responses to cuts in funding should be tailored to fit local circumstances, the scale of the museum service, its capabilities and requirements. It also said that an entrepreneurial culture and proactive leadership were vital to future resilience.

In conclusion, the report said that effective, proactive leadership was vital. Museums that thrive within a local authority setting tend to align their activities with the council’s priorities. The museum service must be on the front foot and take responsibility for seeking to link the museum to the broader council agenda, stated the report.

It also concluded that skills remain a barrier to change, highlighting that traditional approaches to working are not incompatible with changes to governance, management structures and the business model of the organisation. Active workforce planning is essential if museum services are to build resilience said the report.

The Museums Association is calling for museums, galleries and heritage sites to take part in its Cuts Survey.

The survey aims to build up a comprehensive, up-to-date picture of the cuts and changes currently affecting museums. The survey closes at midnight on 6 October.


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MA Member
14.10.2015, 12:11
Its very clear to anyone working in an LA museum that budgets have been under pressure for a number of years and a 7% reduction in LA investment is not a surprise. What would be interesting to know is how many Council's have carried out comprehensive reviews into arts and heritage spending that has included an assessment of how much reinvested benefit they have received as a result of having a museum and/or arts venue. A recent article relating to Shropshire Council has highlighted this issue - I have no personal attachment to the area or any knowledge of the Council or its local museums, but the article (partisan or not) raises an interesting point. Museums continue to offer good value for money in other, less tangible ways than simple financial gain, but they impact far more widely in terms of prestige, attraction to philanthropic investors and in terms of tourism, and all this needs to be a core concern of any council looking to reduce investment in heritage and arts services.

MA Member
08.10.2015, 15:17
Interesting reading, especially the distribution of accredited museums in England by type and region (p3 of the Data Annex document). Is it up to date? It says "The 397 accredited LA museums sit within 123 individual local authorities, with the number of museums owned/managed by LAs varying. The average per LA is 3, with 71% of LAs having 3 or fewer accredited LA museums. There are five LAs which have ten or more sites: Hampshire County Council (CC) 17, Lancashire CC 16, Norfolk CC 13, Kent CC 11 and Hertfordshire CC 10." Is it up-to-date? Hampshire County Council may still own collections and buildings, but didn't the museum function transfer to Hampshire Cultural Trust last year?
Ruth Kerr
MA Member
Community Engagement Officer, The Eling Experience
08.10.2015, 15:21
The HCC to HCT transfer was late in the year. The report drew on 2014 data, so it was probably up-to-date at the time and done before HCT took over management in Nov 2014.