Southampton's planned Sea City Museum, which received a £4.9m grant from HLF last year

MA raises concerns over heritage quango merger

Geraldine Kendall, 24.09.2010
Restructure proposals leaked this week could cause "confusion and extra bureaucracy", says MA policy head

The MA raised concerns this week about the proposed consolidation of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the National Heritage Memorial Fund and English Heritage.

The likelihood of a single heritage quango was reinforced by a Whitehall document leaked to The Telegraph newspaper yesterday indicating the bodies were "to be merged".

The MA submitted evidence earlier this month to a parliamentary select committee warning that a merger would be problematic because HLF and English Heritage have such different areas of responsibility.

The evidence also highlighted fears that the proposed merger could come into conflict with plans to grant national responsibility for museums to Arts Council England (ACE) after the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) is wound up in 2012, as reported by Museums Journal in July.

The MA's head of policy and communication, Maurice Davies said: “[ACE taking over from MLA] would work if HLF stays as a standalone body. The problems will come if HLF merges with a body like English Heritage that has a more strategic role and a bigger remit.

“Then we would see the very strange situation where museum policy is the responsibility of the Arts Council, itself a lottery distributor, but lottery funding for museums is determined by another strategic body.”

Davies added: “We are particularly concerned about the complexity, confusion and extra bureaucracy [this would cause].”

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) spokeswoman said that the department is still reviewing the role and remit of its heritage bodies and a final decision would not be made until next month.

As well as the proposed merger, the leaked Whitehall list shows that DCMS is reviewing public funding and VAT rebates towards free admission at England’s 18 national museums and galleries. Historic Royal Palaces is also under review.

A so-called ‘bonfire of the quangos’ is due to be announced next month prior to the publication of the coalition’s Comprehensive Spending Review on 20 October.

Click here to see the full list of public bodies under review