Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers for England (ALGAO: England) (arts 42)

1 The Role of ALGAO: England

The Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers for England (ALGAO: England) is the national body representing local government archaeology services at County, District, Metropolitan, Unitary and National Park level in England. ALGAO: England co-ordinates the views of its member authorities (93 in total, with full geographical coverage of England) and presents them to government and to other national organisations.

The range of interests of our members embraces all aspects of the historic environment including archaeology, buildings and the historic landscape. ALGAO: England members are responsible for:

· the management of all Historic Environment Records (HERs), which provide information on archaeological sites, historic buildings, historic settlements and landscapes, for use in the planning and other statutory systems, and more general use by the public

· for the management of the 95% of the archaeological heritage which is not designated, in particular through the planning system (plan-making and development management), and the provision of advice on land management especially through agri-environment schemes

· for education and outreach programmes, working with local communities

This submission provides the views of ALGAO: England on funding issues affecting the heritage.

2 Matters raised by the Select Committee

2.1 The impact of recent and future spending cuts in central and local government on the heritage

2.2.1. ALGAO: England is extremely concerned about the impact on the heritage of anticipated spending cuts on the following aspects of national and local heritage services and management:

2.2.2 English Heritage

ALGAO members work in partnership with English Heritage, the government’s statutory adviser on heritage. We are concerned about the scale of the cuts in departmental budgets affecting DCMS that may emerge as a result of the comprehensive spending review in the autumn and how these will impact on English Heritage. Particular areas of concern are:

- the national advisory and enabling role that English Heritage provides the heritage sector through guidance, publications, targeted grant aid and training. This work is highly valued by ALGAO, is cost-effective and could not be delivered easily by others in the sector

- the statutory designation and protection role of English Heritage for the historic environment. This is a vital role for the sector which already is under-resourced. Any further reductions in funding will result in a loss of protection for England’s most significant heritage assets.

2.2.3 Defra – Natural England and agri-environment schemes

The rural archaeological resource of over 500,000 sites recorded on HERs and many more currently unknown sites is at risk from damage from agriculture (especially ploughing), erosion, vegetation cover and neglect. Over recent years substantial improvements have been made in the management of many of these sites by their inclusion in agri-environment schemes, especially Higher Level Stewardship. Despite this, many thousands of sites including nationally designated (Scheduled) archaeological sites are still at risk (as shown by English Heritage’s Heritage at Risk surveys). ALGAO is concerned that future cuts to Defra and Natural England’s budget will restrict the funding available for future such schemes and, by failing to renew existing ones, will result in existing benefits being lost and a potential waste of the current resources that are invested in positive management.

2.2.4 Local government archaeological services

Although ALGAO member local government services are responsible for the management of 95% of the archaeological resource they are non-statutory, and will be very much at risk to cuts in local authority funding. ALGAO member authorities are already modelling budget cuts of up to 40% over the next few years and it is difficult to see in these circumstances how such services will survive. Typically services consist of 3 or 4 staff responsible for providing essential information and advice on the archaeology of a county, national park, or group of unitary authorities.

One of the most important roles of ALGAO member local authority services and their teams is to implement government planning policy for the historic environment, contained within Planning Policy Statement 5, Planning for the Historic Environment. This includes ensuring the smooth and efficient operation of the planning and archaeology process by managing the risk of delays to development, caused for instance by unexpected archaeological discoveries. Our experience is that where this aspect of our member services have been cut, frequent problems occur with development projects, due to the absence of appropriate specialist advice to planners and developers. We are therefore very concerned that current and future reductions in staffing and service provision to ALGAO member services will result in widespread problems where archaeological remains are affected by development projects. These potential problems are also likely to impact more widely on employment in the heritage sector and the ability of the planning system generally to deliver development.

In addition, where substantial cuts to services have occurred in the past, the experience of ALGAO is that the costs of recreating the service to the same level at a given point in the future are considerably greater. This is because many of the aspects of ALGAO member services such as HER management and the monitoring of development and land-use change are ongoing and are not undertaken elsewhere. Therefore, if they are cut, the result is an end to the systemic monitoring and advice and also to the recording of change and new information on HERs - for the given area covered. The lack of data recording (for instance from new archaeological discoveries) and the absence of monitoring of current and proposed development therefore results in both a loss of protection to the historic environment and steadily increasing backlogs of work.

ALGAO are consequently keen that Government is made fully aware of the risks of cutting ALGAO member services, including the impact this will have on the development sector and the likelihood that if services are completely cut they will almost certainly need to be recreated - at greater cost - in some point in the future.

2.2 What level of public subsidy for the heritage is necessary and sustainable

2.3 Whether the current system and structure of funding distribution is the right one

2.4 What impact recent changes to the distribution of National Lottery funding

3 Other areas of interest

We feel that the reintroduction of the Heritage Bill by Government at the earliest opportunity will serve to make the system of heritage protection more efficient and transparent and will also help to maintain the current framework of information and specialist advice provided by English Heritage and Local Government. In particular, ALGAO are keen to see the proposal made in the draft Heritage Bill to make the maintenance of Historic Environment Records a statutory provision of local authorities taken forward in a Heritage Bill. This provision could be introduced at minimal or no cost and would secure this vital resource for the heritage sector, planners, developers and local communities.

September 2010