Politicians have been urged to rethink significant cuts proposed for museums, culture and heritage in Wales.
In its draft spending proposals for 2024-25, published in December, the Welsh Government outlined an extensive programme of cuts across many sectors to address a significant shortfall in its £23bn budget.
Overall, support for culture, sport and tourism is due to drop by £16m as the government reprioritises spending for frontline services.
The budget proposes a 10.5% cut to both Amgueddfa Cymru–Museum Wales and the Arts Council of Wales, representing a reduction of around £3m in funding for each organisation.
Support for local culture and sport will drop by a further £1.9m, while funding for Cadw, the nation’s historic environment service, will be cut by £2m – more than 20% of its current budget. In total, funding for culture and the arts will fall by 11.2% compared with indicative budgets last year.
The government is due to publish its final budget on 27 February following scrutiny by the senedd.
The minister for finance and local government, Rebecca Evans, has described this year’s budget as “starkest and most painful since devolution”, blaming an inadequate funding settlement from Westminster coupled with pressures such as persistently high inflation, unfunded public sector pay rises and rising demand for services.
The government has suggested that cultural bodies should explore other sources of income.
In its response to the budget, Amgueddfa Cymru said the proposals represent the largest funding cut in its history and would have a “sizeable impact” on day-to-day operations.
The institution, which manages eight sites across Wales, warns it will have to consider cost-saving options including changing operating arrangements, closing services and potential job losses.
Chief executive Jane Richardson said: “We shouldn’t underestimate the long-lasting effect these cuts will have on Amgueddfa Cymru and the wider culture sector in Wales […]
“This financial situation is challenging for everyone, and we recognise that we have to make difficult financial decisions. We will focus on delivering on our core purpose of inspiring learning and enjoyment for everyone through the national collection of Wales.”
Richardson added: “We will have to look again at what Amgueddfa Cymru is, what we represent and what we deliver. There are different opportunities and options to consider, but it’s not going to be easy and there will be many more challenges ahead.”
Richardson told the BBC last week that Amgueddfa Cymru would have to make some “brave” decisions, including taking in less artefacts and restructuring. She also warned the institution is facing a £90m maintenance backlog, including leaking walls and faulty plumbing and wiring, which she said could put collections at risk if not addressed.
Sharon Heal, director of the Museums Association, has called on politicians to think again about the proposed cuts.
Heal said: “While we understand that the Welsh Government is having to make difficult decisions, we are disappointed that significant cuts have been aimed at the national museum and will also impact local museum services.
“Museums across Wales have led the way in tackling the big issues that we face in society such as racism and climate change and have delivered accessible and engaging services working with their local communities.
“It would be disappointing to see this work undermined if these cuts are agreed and we would urge all politicians to think again about the value that museums deliver for communities across Wales.”