Local authority funding fell by £23m in 2011-12

Following an 11% drop in museum funding last year, things are unlikely to improve in 2012-13
Patrick Steel; Rebecca Atkinson
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As councils prepare their budgets for the coming financial year, newly released government data shows that local authority funding for museums fell by 11%, nearly £23m, in 2011-12.

The Local Authority Revenue Expenditure and Financing in England: 2011 to 2012 Final Out-turn, released by the Department for Communities and Local Government, also shows that cultural spend by local authorities in England dropped by 7.8% in 2011-12. Next year’s figures are unlikely to improve.

Newcastle City Council has proposed cuts of £90m that will see the overall budget for cultural, library, leisure and customer service centres cut from £16.8m to £8.8m over the next three years.

Under the proposals, the Great North Museum, which is run by Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums but funded through the University of Newcastle, will lose its annual council grant of £150,000, equal to about 12% of its income, by 2016.

Hatton Gallery will also have all of its council funding withdrawn, while Tyne and Wear Archives, the Discovery Museum and the Laing Art Gallery will suffer 50% cuts.

Meanwhile, Southampton City Council, which is proposing to cut £18.1m from its budget, is considering axing its archaeology service, making nine full-time equivalent posts redundant.

It is also looking at restructuring its arts and heritage team, reducing education and curatorial functions, including conservation, to focus more on front-of-house operations.

Council papers warn that the proposals could lead to a “risk of reputational damage and potential impact on accreditation for collections”.

Local authority museums are not the only ones feeling the squeeze. The London Transport Museum has warned that unless it can cut staff costs by 15% over the next three years, the equivalent of roughly 15 posts, it will face a deficit of £705,000 by 2015-2016. This follows Transport for London’s (TfL) decision to withdraw £1.5m per year of funding for the museum by 2015.

Director Sam Mullins said the deficit could be avoided through an organisational restructure, coupled with changes to terms and conditions and salaries for new posts.

But the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association union is campaigning against this, garnering support from 21 MPs who signed an early-day motion last month calling for TfL to reinstate the funding.

Meanwhile, the lights have gone out at the Museum of Electricity in Christchurch, Dorset, after Scottish and Southern Energy found that modernising the building to provide disability access would require a “seven-figure sum”.

The museum, which employed nine part-time staff, closed last month.



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