Extend furlough scheme to save museums, says Senedd report

Committee warns ‘financial timebomb’ will hit organisations in October
Covid-19
Jonathan Knott
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A rainbow poster collected as part of the Collecting Covid project by Amgueddfa Cymru
A rainbow poster collected as part of the Collecting Covid project by Amgueddfa Cymru Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

The UK government furlough scheme should be extended to address the “existential threat” facing Welsh museums, says a new report from the Senedd’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee.

The committee says museum, heritage and archive organisations have warned of a “financial timebomb about to hit organisations once the furlough scheme ends in October”.

It warns that the immediate cash flow crisis could prove fatal for smaller organisations and those in rural areas.

The report says that ongoing social distancing requirements will significantly restrict the ability of organisations to generate income even as lockdown measures are eased, arguing that “the furlough scheme will be needed for those sites which are not able to reopen fully”.

It calls on the Welsh government to urge the Treasury to continue the scheme beyond October.

The report examines the impact of Covid-19 on heritage, museums and archives in Wales, based on written and oral evidence from funders, institutions and sector support organisations, including the Museums Association.

The committee heard that across much of the sector, “commercial income is unlikely to reach pre-pandemic levels for a number of years”.

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales is expecting to lose about £1.8m of commercial revenue this financial year, and Pedr ap Llwyd, the National Library of Wales, said it could lose £600,000.

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The report also recommends that the Welsh government spend all of the £59m additional funding it received from the UK government’s emergency cultural support package on supporting individuals and organisations in the sector.

The committee says bringing forward Gift Aid payments could also help ease organisations’ cash flow. It will be asking the Welsh government to discuss Gift Aid payments with the Treasury.

The report notes that the sector has increased its digital activity during the pandemic, but with “minimal additional funds”.

It calls on the Welsh government to ensure that organisations have enough expertise and infrastructure allow visitors to engage digitally with their collections, and to draw up a new strategy for increasing digital access to collections.

The committee adds that the way the sector is overseen and funded needs to change to reflect new realities. It says funding decisions should take into account increased digital delivery and reduced income, and calls for new performance indicators that encourage collaboration and delivery across wider outcomes including health, education and tackling poverty.

It also says the Welsh government should set out how any additional cultural funding will be used to increase access and mitigate social exclusion.

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