MA publishes Museums Manifesto ahead of general election

Yosola Olorunshola, 14.11.2019
Outlining key priorities across the UK for the next government 
The Museums Association (MA) has published the Museums Manifesto (2019), outlining what museums, galleries and heritage organisations require from the next government.

It calls for increased investment in museums across all four nations of the UK after a decade of austerity. The demands range from increased support for local museums and further provision for urgent repairs, to helping museums grow their digital capacity and simplifying business rates.  

As funding and support for culture and museums is a devolved responsibility, the manifesto makes fair funding settlements for devolved administrations a central demand to ensure its priorities can be implemented across all four nations.  

“This election is a real opportunity for us to make the case for investment in museums across the UK,” says Alistair Brown, policy manager at the MA. “The sector has struggled with the impact of austerity and Brexit, but if the next government acts on the eight-point plan in our Museums Manifesto, the sector will be in a much better place to deliver for audiences and communities.

“In the next month, we need to share our Museums Manifesto far and wide – with political parties, local candidates and with voters themselves. We can only get the change we need if museums’ needs are on the political agenda.”

Museums Manifesto 2019 outlines the following eight priorities for the next government to adopt:  

Support for local museums

Local museums need investment and support from local authorities to deliver transformational and engaging experiences working with local communities.  

Support urgent repairs to museum buildings and estates

The manifesto welcomes the recently announced £125m of Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) funding for the maintenance of regional museums in England. However, it states that more will be needed to meet the urgent maintenance and infrastructure needs of museums across the UK. The next government should examine how it can work with devolved governments to make equivalent funding available for museums in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Support museums’ capacity to deliver place-making, health and wellbeing, and learning and engagement

Museums use their spaces, collections and expertise to enhance people’s quality of life, improve educational outcomes and create culture-led regeneration projects for our towns and cities. Pressure on public funding in recent decades has forced museums to scale back these efforts. Substantial new investment would enable museums to deliver outcomes that meet local priorities informed by local communities, and form partnerships to increase their local impact.

Support digital infrastructure and engagement to ensure museums and collections remain accessible, relevant and innovative

Museums need increased support from government to grow their digital capacity in areas including digitising collections, linking collections information and improving online engagement. Government support would be particularly welcome in creating or enabling a single point of entry for digitised collections.

Embed Exhibition Tax Relief

The Museums and Galleries Exhibition Tax Relief was introduced in 2017 and has been successful in supporting museums across the UK to create and tour innovative new exhibitions. However, the relief has a sunset clause and will be discontinued in 2022 - the next government should remove this clause and support the scheme as a matter of urgency.

Maintain free entry to national museums
 
Free entry to national museums has been one of the major cultural policy successes of recent times. Since free entry to national museums in England was introduced in 2001, attendance has more than doubled. Protecting free admission to national museums was a manifesto pledge of all the major political parties at the last general election. The new government should commit to maintaining the policy.  

Negotiate a close economic partnership with the EU that works for museums
 
The manifesto recommends that the best outcome for museums would be for the UK to remain a member of the European Union. However, if the current Brexit deal or similar is implemented, we believe that the next government should commit to ensuring a future partnership with Europe that: maintains inbound tourism from EU member states; supports the exchange of skills and expertise among UK and EU museum staff; ensures the availability of visas for specialist cultural or scientific skills; removes blanket salary thresholds for visas; maintains import/export rules for cultural objects; and maintains participation in key European funding schemes.  

Simplify business rates

Business rates are a major financial burden on the museum sector, especially as museums are valued differently across the UK. Applying a fair and simple valuation would provide a consistent and cost-effective approach which would aid the long-term support of many museums. Most importantly, the change would stop the recycling of public money caused by charging exorbitant business rates to public institutions.

Links and downloads

Read the full Museum Manifesto 2019 here 

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