Rising costs force museums to cut opening hours and education programmes - Museums Association

Rising costs force museums to cut opening hours and education programmes

New research shows four in five heritage bodies hit by budget pressures
Cost of living crisis Cuts
School visitors at Gosport Gallery
School visitors at Gosport Gallery

Rising energy bills and other costs are hitting home, with 78% of heritage organisations saying they are facing budget pressures – and making cuts to their services as a result.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund's latest Heritage Pulse survey, which went to 162 UK organisations in January, found that higher energy and utility costs are affecting 54% of those facing budget stress. This is followed by the cost of maintaiance and repairs (43%), insurance (38%) and payroll increases (36%).

As a result, 32% of made cuts to their existing programmes. Opening hours and public access are the biggest hit by the cuts, with 37% of affected organisations reduced these. Meanwhile, 37% of organisations have cut slashing education and community programmes and 34% are cutting back on building or technical maintenance.

One respondent said that reduced open hours meant it was seeing “less interaction with community groups”.

Staffing costs have been less affected so far, with 56% of organisations facing budget pressures saying they had not had to reduce paid staffing in the previous 12 months.

However, many reported that staff wellbeing was being negatively impacted by rising costs and uncertainty, as well as higher workloads and a lack of training or development opportunities.


Despite a falling rate of inflation, heritage organisations appear pessimistic about the outlook for 2024. Of those experiencing budget pressures, 62% believe the situation will get worse in the next year.

One respondent said: “There has been a 9% rise in wages. We do not anticipate being able to increase the entry fee and shop prices to cover this amount so will have to find the money somewhere else – probably from money we had put aside for an upgrade of displays.”

Another said: “Without a significant rise in visitor numbers and attendees at our events, we will not be able to raise our core funding required just to cover day-to-day costs, never mind the heating repairs.”

The survey also found that 57% of bodies affected by budget pressures are starting to rationalise their future plans. Building or technical maintenance is the worst affected, with 47% cancelling, delaying or scaling back planned work. This is followed by education and community programmes (34%) and digital services or web content (24%).

In response the financial pressures, many of those surveyed are looking at dipping into financial reserves to fill gaps. Others are putting effort into new scenario and budgetary planning, or looking at alternative income streams.

And one respondent said it was offering more free entry to children as a result of its financial concerns: “If it doesn’t cost you anything, let visitors come for free. They may make a donation, buy something or even buy a membership.”

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