Culture budget slashed by £20m

Patrick Steel, Issue 109/6, p5, June 2009
Government's new efficiency targets also mean grant-in-aid cuts for 2010-11
The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) is to cut £250,000 from its management and operating costs in 2010-11, including the management and operation of Renaissance in the Regions, to meet government efficiency targets outlined in the budget.

The MLA's chief executive, Roy Clare, said he was confident he could make the savings without affecting frontline services. He added that as the MLA was already in the process of restructuring, the latest reduction would be relatively painless.

The MLA is in negotiations with trade unions over the relocation of a further 12 posts from London to Birmingham. Clare said that while he had no plans at the moment to make redundancies, he could not rule them out in light of the financial climate.

The cuts to the MLA's budget are part of a wider cost-saving plan by the government, of which the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's (DCMS) share is £20m. All national museums in receipt of grant-in-aid have been asked to find at least 0.4 per cent in savings for 2010-11, while Arts Council England must find 0.9 per cent (£4m).

Many national museums said that it was too early to say exactly where the savings would be made, but most thought the cuts were small enough to be absorbed into general efficiency savings. However, a handful of museums envisaged the savings having an impact on frontline services, with one museum planning to charge for public events that it currently provides free.

The DCMS is also looking to save a further £8m from its programme budget, and has reduced the Find Your Talent budget by £1.25m over 2009-10 and 2010-11.

National museums have been warned that their capital allocations, a total pot of £191m, are also now under review.

Moves by the DCMS to introduce incentives to promote philanthropy were also dropped from the budget, although the government will continue to explore ideas to improve Gift Aid, with research into the effect of redirecting higher-rate tax relief from donors to charities.

Clare warned that the worst might be yet to come. "We all know public funding is going to get more difficult," he said. "We need a strong sector and a unity of purpose to show that we can help drive the economy to safer ground."

Grant-in-aid cuts for 2010-11

English Heritage: 0.4% / £500,000
British Library: 0.5% / £470,000
MLA: 0.4% / £250,000
British Museum: 0.5% / £225,000
Natural History Museum: 0.5% / 232,000
Victoria and Albert Museum: 0.5% / £213,000
NMSI: 0.5% / £185,000
Tate: 0.5% / £172,000
National Gallery: 0.5% / £121,000
National Museums Liverpool: 0.4% / £110,000
Imperial War Museum: 0.5% / £103,000
National Maritime Museum: 0.5% / £82,000
Royal Armouries: 0.5% / £37,000
National Portrait Gallery: 0.5% / £41,000
Horniman Museum and Gardens: 0.5% / £21,000
Museum of Science and Industry: 0.5% / £20,000
Wallace Collection: 0.5% / £14,000
Geffrye Museum: 0.5% / £8,000
Sir John Soane's Museum: 0.5% / £6,000

Michael Dixon, director of the Natural History Museum and chair of National Museum Directors' Conference
"Museums are reliant on private as well as public funding, so they are already feeling the impact of recession. We hope the government continues to do its best to protect the frontline of museums, and their audiences, from the full effect of budget cuts."

Tim Knox, director of the Sir John Soane's Museum
"For museums like ours, it is hard to make economies because everything is on a small scale. I think the DCMS has done its best to shield us from the worst, but I fear for the future."

David Fleming, director of National Museums Liverpool
"The sector has to be more concerned with what happens next. The 2011-12 period could be hard and I'm sure my colleagues are planning for difficult circumstances."