Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Chard and District Museum (arts 103)

What impact recent, and future, spending cuts from central and local Government will have on the arts and heritage at a national and local level.

Chard and District Museum rents its premises from South Somerset District Council on a fully repairing lease . For the last 40 years the district council has given a grant that exactly covered the rent. The museum was able to generate additional funds from admissions, donations, ‘Friends of the Museum’, gift aid , shop sales and events that covered its other current expenses. Any , invariably small, surpluses were invested in the museum displays and equipment .

The district council has given notice that the grant will be reduced to zero by 2014 and that the rent for the next five years will be £10,000 p.a. Consequently the museum has progressively to find an additional £10,000 each year in order to remain in existence. Total break-even income/expense is approximately £20,000 p.a. at current prices. This is not a lot of money in the general scheme of things but is a large sum to raise from local voluntary contributions at a few pounds per head.

The situation represents a culture change to which the volunteer trustees are unaccustomed and ill-equipped to manage. Traditional forms of raising revenue identified above are inadequate for raising the total sum required; the nature of the museum as a consumer product means that raising prices/charges tends to reduce total income. Museums are not popular culture. That is to say , total self financing is considered unrealistic.

What arts organisations can do to work more closely together in order to reduce duplication of effort and to make economies of scale .

It is difficult to imagine how small organisations miles away from similar ones can reduce effort to make economies of scale. Chard Museum’s expenditure is already minimal and has no paid employees.

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

Matched funding would seem to be a possible starting formula. A local organisation may be funded by local taxation and those with a wider national perspective may also be funded centrally.

The impact of recent changes to DCMS arm’s-length bodies - in particular the abolition of the UK Film Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council ,

The abolition of the MLA means that Chard Museum no longer has an umbrella organisation that it can input to and also receive the bigger picture. This means organisations work in an information and advice vacuum. The DCMS needs specialist arms.

Whether businesses and philanthropists can play a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local level .

Yes, of course they can but presumably the benefits need to be reciprocal. Advice and coordination is required, experiences shared. Who will perform such a role? DCMS? MLA? Incentives to the givers may be appropriate to e ncourage them but then we may be talking of government spending again and could be back at our starting point.

September 2010