Queen Street Mill in Lancashire is at risk of closure because of council cuts

Future of civic museums at risk, warns MA

Geraldine Kendall, 26.04.2016
MA submits response to Countries of Culture Inquiry
The Museums Association (MA) has called on the government and arts funding bodies to take a strategic approach to the "crisis in civic museums" caused by local authority spending cuts.

In a response to the Countries of Culture Inquiry, an inquiry set up by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on how to preserve and protect culture in the UK, the MA warned that the future of museums that are run or funded by local government is at risk, with many facing “severe short-term and long-term challenges”.

The MA said local authorities see museums as expendable and described how public spending cuts have forced institutions to close, put collections at risk and had a detrimental effect on audiences and the wider public. Some areas are at risk of becoming “cultural cold spots” due to local authority cuts, added the MA.

The association proposed several ways in which the government could intervene to mitigate the crisis, calling for a commitment from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Arts Council England (ACE) and national museums to “endeavour to meet the cultural needs of all regions”.

The MA recommended using existing resources from ACE or the Heritage Lottery Fund to create a Community Engagement Fund, which would support museums to work in partnership with community organisations and explore sustainable business models with communities.

The association also proposed that the government create a series of “challenge funds”, along the same lines as the prime minister’s Dementia Challenge, which would allow museums to deliver social impact while at the same time diversifying their income streams.

The MA called for the arts council to establish an “intervention fund” for museums under threat from closure, which would allocate resources to ensure that their collections are preserved and made available to the public.

“The select committee’s inquiry into cultural provision in the regions and nations is well-timed. Civic museums are in the midst of a crisis which is set to get worse as public funding is reduced further over the next four years,” said Alistair Brown, the MA’s policy officer.
“We need the select committee to hold the government to account, and to recommend a strategic approach to supporting museums which recognises the need for continued public funding as well as support for innovative new funding models.”

The Countries of Culture Inquiry was set up to build on the select committee’s report on the work of the arts council two years ago, which found that there was a significant imbalance of funding between London and the other English regions which needed to be urgently addressed.

The Countries of Culture Inquiry has a remit to examine the UK's wider cultural landscape and the challenges facing the sector, particularly the balance of funding between regions, and the impact of local government cuts. It closes to written submissions on 30 April.


MA response to the Countries of Culture Inquiry (word)