Central government arts and museum funding stable to 2020 3/12/2015

On the 25th November Chancellor George Osborne announced the detail of his much anticipated Comprehensive Spending Review and how it will affect cultural services.  The Chancellor’s statement prefaced his plans by saying that, "One of the best investments we can make as a nation is in our extraordinary arts, museums, heritage, media and sport" and that cuts to the DCMS would be a "false economy".  He said, “the government is committed to supporting the arts and our world class national museums and galleries which make a rich contribution to society and our economy.

Headlines for the cultural sector include:

  • Funding for national museums will remain at the current level until 2019-20 and free admission maintained.
  • Arts Council England will receive a small cash increase of £10m a year for the next four years.
  • However, DCMS will receive a 5% cut to its funding, which will fall internally.
  • The government will work with museums to explore the case for a new tax relief to support exhibitions.
  • There will be deep cuts at the Department for Communities and Local Government which will make 29% savings over four years.  Its overall budget will decrease by £6.1bn over the period, from £11.5bn in 2015-16 to £5.4bn in 2019-20.
  • There will be slight declines in budget for Wales (1.1%), Scotland and Northern Ireland (both 1.3%).
  • Historic England will receive a 10% cut over the next four years.
  • The operational freedoms announced for national museums in 2013 will be made permanent and extended to bodies including the National Army Museum, the National Museum of the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force Museum and Historic England.

Specific funding commitments for museums include:

  • £150m in investment to replace the outdated storage facility used by the British Museum, Science Museum and V&A at Blythe House and replace it with a new state of the art building to store two million fragile objects.
  • £5m will go towards the £66m cost of a transformation at the Burrell Collection which will close for three years for major work.  A Treasury source described the contribution as a "testament to the collection's huge cultural relevance for the United Kingdom as a whole".
  • The British Library has been invited to make the case for a print collections management hub at its Boston Spa site.
  • The National Museum of the Royal Navy will receive £2m of LIBOR money for major new projects, while the D Day Museum will receive £600k.
  • There will be a £5m contribution to Manchester Museum’s new South Asia gallery

ACE Chair Sir Peter Bazalgette described the announcements as “an astonishing settlement for arts and culture” given widespread cuts.  NMDC Chair Diane Lees said “This fantastic outcome is the result of a long and sustained campaign, which saw collaboration across the sector as museums came together to demonstrate our collective worth and value to the nation and to give government the evidence it needs to invest in our museums.”

Both however expressed concern about the effect of DCLG cuts on local museums, a view shared by Museums Association Director Sharon Heal who said “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.”

Art Fund Director Stephen Deuchar also commented, saying that he welcomed a settlement which “represents a cut of only 5–7% in real terms (allowing for inflation)especially if this helps to maintain the provision of free admission”.  Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said the body was ‘grateful’ for a cut of only 10% although it represents a ‘not insignificant challenge’.

Gov.uk (full document, museums p52), Gov.uk (DCMS settlement), Gov.uk (press release), NMDC, ACE, Art Fund, Museums Journal, M+H Advisor, BBC, Herald Scotland (Burrell Collection) Historic England, Telegraph (Osborne’s speech in full).