George Osborne

Chancellor announces cuts to DCMS and DCLG

Patrick Steel, 25.11.2015
Arts Council England and national museums’ budgets frozen
The chancellor George Osborne has announced further cuts to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in his autumn statement, leading the Museums Association (MA) to express deep concern over the impact of the cuts on museums, galleries and heritage sites.

The DCMS received an overall cut of 5%, to include a 20% cut to its core administration budget, while Arts Council England (ACE) and England’s national museums will receive standstill budgets until 2019-20 - a real-terms cut once inflation is taken into account. The government also pledged to maintain free entry to national museums.

The department for culture’s capital expenditure limits will be halved by 2021, from £0.4bn in 2015-16 to £0.2bn in 2020-21.

The chancellor said that the government would work with museums and galleries to explore the case for introducing a new tax relief for the sector “to encourage museums and galleries to develop creative new exhibitions and display their collections for a wide audience”.

The DCLG will make “overall resource savings” of 29% over four years “through better financial management and further efficiency”. The local government grant will be reduced by £6.1bn, from £11.5bn in 2015-16 to £5.4bn in 2019-20, which the Local Government Association (LGA) says will have serious consequences for council services.

Sharon Heal, the MA’s director, said: “We are pleased that the chancellor recognises that cutting arts funding would be a false economy.

“His decision to protect the ACE budget from further cuts is to be welcomed, as is his decision to preserve free entry to national museums. We are also interested in participating in further discussions to ensure that the chancellor’s proposed tax relief for exhibitions works to support museums across the UK.

“However, we remain deeply concerned about the impact of the local authority budget cuts on the UK's civic museums, and on the huge number of people who visit them. We believe that civic and local museums up and down the country will face real difficulties because of local authority funding cuts over the 2015-20 period – particularly those in less well-off areas.

“Museum closures, job losses and the introduction of charging are happening already. Today’s spending review means that this trend is likely to grow.

“Our museums play a vital role at the heart of the communities. They preserve our heritage, provide lifelong learning, and improve our wellbeing. We believe that DCMS, DCLG, ACE and the LGA, and the relevant devolved agencies must now work together to ensure that our museums can survive and thrive through this difficult period.”

Gary Porter, the chairman of the LGA, said: “Today’s spending review has handed down a difficult £4.1bn funding cut over this spending review period for our residents and comes on top of almost £10bn in further demand-led cost pressures facing councils by the end of the decade. The consequences for our local communities who will suffer as a result should not be underestimated.

“It is wrong that the services our local communities rely on will face deeper cuts than the rest of the public sector yet again and for local taxpayers to be left to pick up the bill for new government policies without any additional funding.

“Even if councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres and turned off every street light they will not have saved enough money to plug the financial black hole they face by 2020."

Stephen Deucher, the director of the Art Fund, said: "Today’s statement is just the beginning, as it is the forthcoming local authority settlements that will determine the fate of the majority of the UK’s museums and galleries – the hundreds of institutions across the country that are already under-resourced and vulnerable.

"With early announcements from Lancashire, for example, of the likelihood of five museum closures and charging admission for the remainder, we must work hard to ensure the survival of free cultural provision on everyone’s doorstep – beyond the protected national museums and galleries."

Also in his statement, the chancellor announced £150m to replace Blythe House, which stores over two million objects for the British Museum, the Science Museum, and Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), with “world-class storage facilities”.

Other museums and galleries to benefit from the spending review are the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, which will receive £2.5m; Manchester Museum, which will receive £5m for a new South Asia Gallery in partnership with the British Museum; the Mayflower in Plymouth, which will receive £500,000 towards plans to celebrate its 400th anniversary in 2020; and the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, which will receive £5m towards touring the collection and its £66m regeneration plans.

The government will also give £2m, funded through Libor fines, to move the Royal Marines Museum to the Historic Dockyard within Portsmouth Naval Base. A further £600,000 will go towards fundraising for transforming the city’s D-Day Museum ahead of the 75th anniversary of D-Day in 2019, when it will reopen as the International Museum of D-Day, Portsmouth. The government also said it would “continue to provide funding to support regeneration schemes at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park”, the site of a new branch of the V&A.

The government has invited the British Library to develop a business case for a print collections management hub in Boston Spa, Wetherby.

The Treasury will provide £1m “to create a lasting legacy for Hull’s UK City of Culture 2017, and prepare for the next UK City of Culture”, while £20m will go towards the Great Exhibition of the North and to create a new Great Exhibition Legacy Fund.

The government also announced £30m to provide international support for cultural heritage in global conflict zones, with funding between 2016-17 and 2019-20 for a new Cultural Protection Fund.

Block grants to devolved nations will see a slight real-terms reduction in resource and capital allocations for Scotland (-1.3%), Wales (-1.1%) and Northern Ireland (-1.3%) over the next four years. Devolved administrations are due set their budgets in the new year.


Updated to include comment from the LGA and the Art Fund.


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Laura Humphreys
MA Member
CDA PhD Candidate, Geffrye Museum & Queen Mary, University of London
26.11.2015, 13:19
The news of £150million to replace Blythe House is good, but it probably means Science Museum collections will be moved from London to Wroughton, to a much less accessible site not only for staff but for researchers. It also moves the collections even further away from other museums in the Science Museum Group, including MOSI and the National Railway Museum.

It's vital that collections remain close to their parent institutions, or else they will be neglected and under-used. These collections belong to the nation, and moving them to a remote airfield in the South West takes them away from public transport and the subject specialists who know them best.
Andy Povey
Business Development Director, Gateway Ticketing Systems, Inc
26.11.2015, 12:48
Funding cuts have already bitten the sector hard and all museums and heritage attractions have to face the prospect of becoming more commercially focussed in order to ensure the future of their collections.

Reliance on government funding has generally underpinned our cultural sector which is increasingly starting to look like a rather unhealthy relationship. This moves the focus of museum professionals from serving their community and maintaining their collection to satisfying the whims of their political funders.

Yesterday’s announcements and the themes from the recent MA conference reinforce the urgency for museums to decide upon their strategy – is it appropriate or even possible to generate more income for other sources or is it time to look at reducing service provision, part time opening or even relocation to shared public locations.

For those institutions that are able to stand on their own two feet and reduce their reliance on the public purse the future is both exciting and scary in equal measure. It’s something that we at Gateway are watching very closely.
25.11.2015, 17:17
Working on a budget has always been a challenge and with less funding it is harder. It means going the extra mile and demanding the best deal you can. That is not something that comes naturally for most of us Brits. It can be very comfortable sticking with the same supplier or the brand you know but maybe when you are between a rock and a hard place the time is ripe to cast the net a little wider.

Storage Solutions Ltd became a Corporate MA member earlier this year and we knew we could offer very real cost savings to MA members. Not only are we set up for efficiency we have decades of experience offering just that. The chances are that you have shelving in your home that was made on our machines. Our Spur and Zamba ranges were the mainstay of the DIY market for decades and not just in the UK. To make a quality steel shelving unit that sells retail for just £20 certainly takes special skills. We have however built high spec commercial archives to hold as many as a million boxes, again to a price but also to a demanding spec.

Since becoming MA members we are surprised just how few Museums have spoken to us. Whether or not we are the best or the cheapest it is for you to decide but it would be nice to talk.

My point is that there are opportunities to reduce cost and maybe when times are hard, that net needs to be cast a little wider. Maybe we can help, but there are lots of suppliers for lots of products and services. Just like us waiting in the wings. So give us and them a challenge to just make sure you really are getting the best for your budget.

Remember that buying British keeps tax here to support your Museum. Good luck in hunting out that deal for whatever it is.

Jonathan Gammond
MA Member
Access & Interpretation Officer, Wrexham County Borough Museum
27.11.2015, 21:12
Dear Peter,

It could be that other museums faced the choice my manager and our collection manager faced: shut a museum on a site the service owns, shut the large object store which was a site the service rented, move objects from store to old museum and recycle racking from old store. The idea of purchasing new racking was not on the agenda. The total priority was to save expenditure to meet the target set. My colleague has priced new racking to make more efficient use of space in our museum store on site, but unless you are giving it away for free and i mean free, then the plans stay on the drawing board.