The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in England has written to Alun Jones, the minister for heritage in Wales, to say that funding for the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) will be withdrawn from April 2012.
DCMS currently puts approximately £60,000 into the scheme in Wales, with £10,000 coming from Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales (NMW) and £5,000 from Museums, Archives and Libraries Wales (CyMAL). The money funds a post based at the national museum in Cardiff and a grants scheme.
It was announced this week that the British Museum would take over the running of the scheme from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) from April 2012, but with a 15% cut in its budget.
PAS director Roger Bland said: "This was a very difficult decision that the British Museum took in conjunction with DCMS. 92% of the costs of running the PAS go on staff, and the current network of finds liaison officers and finds advisers are all fully stretched, so there was no easy way to implement cuts of 15%."
"In the case of Wales there was an anomaly that funding was going to the devolved administration. We will do all we can to work with the national museum to ensure that PAS continues in Wales."
But David Anderson, director general of NMW, said the future of the scheme in Wales was now uncertain and its loss would be a massive blow to the country’s heritage and archaeology.
"The scheme is Wales’ biggest archaeology project, engaging a wide museum audience, and is a relatively inexpensive programme to run. Recording thousands of archaeology objects a year, it also helps coordinate treasure in Wales.”
Mike Heyworth, the director of the Council for British Archaeology, said that he regretted that the funding had been cut but hoped that it would be picked up by the Welsh Assembly Government and NMW.
Museums Association director Mark Taylor said there were concerns that the loss of MLA would adversely impact museums in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
"This only serves to increase those worries - and disappointment - that there is little or no dialogue on these and other UK issues between DCMS and their equivalent departments."