Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge (arts 119)

1 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?

1.1 We are concerned that future reduced funding may be concentrated in national museums and major conurbations. This would significantly reduce the cultural entitlement of large swathes of the population particularly in the east and south west of England, where the population is predominantly rural.

1.2 We would welcome assurances that the majority of funding cuts will be restricted to central administration in order to preserve front-line services. Public funding of core support for museum collections, buildings, and access to them provides both a reassurance of continued activity and an endorsement of their value, which is critical in bidding for funds from other sources.

1.3 We would stress the importance of preserving standards such as Accreditation (minimum standard) and Designation (recognition of national importance of the collection(s)), not only because this gives confidence to other funders and sponsors but also because the current standards have gained international recognition.

The Renaissance programme supporting excellent work in non-national hub museums in the regions if continued would provide an efficient means of enabling museums to achieve and maintain these standards.

1.4 Support for national standards in museums such as the Collections Trust’s Collections Link resources should be safeguarded and Culture Grid, part of a European digital exchange platform, also managed by the Collections Trust, must be preserved. This will play an important part in future economic development of tourism and business linked to culture and is especially important to museums among others in the approach to London 2012.

1.5 The investment provided by Renaissance has enabled regional museums to build capacity and improve and extend their offer. Together with lottery funding for improvements to buildings and facilities, this has led to regional museums playing an increasingly important role in stimulating cultural tourism and regional regeneration. Any reduction in funding to front-line services and projects would diminish the regional museum’s sector ability to contribute to tourism in this way.

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

2.1 Collaboration and partnership are clearly the way forward and should be encouraged.

2.2 With the benefit of Renaissance investment, the museums of the University of Cambridge and non-University local museums have been able to work together since 2003, and can demonstrate that this approach results in significantly increased public engagement and more diverse users, raised standards, the efficient use of resources and increased their capacity to contribute to national initiatives.

2.2 In the East of England, Renaissance funding has enabled the development of a strong working partnership between the four hub museums with benefits felt well beyond the partners, both by the visiting public and in the wider museums sector. Both locally and regionally, Renaissance-funded collaborative activities have demonstrated that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The East of England Renaissance SHARE project is a good example here: it is an exchange of professional support, training and advice among museums, harnessing the capacity built in the Hub partners and distributing it among the wider museums community in the region. Renaissance Hubs have become significant players in their regions and have been able to have much more impact by working together.

2.3 In our experience, however, dedicated facilitators are essential to successful and efficient collaborations. The well-established and trusted Museum Development Officer (MDO) network has proved an efficient and effective way of delivering support and connecting museums across regions, and in the East of England this network is complemented by the Renaissance-funded Regional Conservation Officers (RCOs). Both MDOs and RCOs contribute to the SHARE project (2,2 above). The improvement of local museums that results, impacts in turn on the current users of museums and the appeal of museums to potential visitors. These museum development posts and networks should be preserved.

2.4 The University of Cambridge has eight museums, five of which have designated collections, and its principal museum, the Fitzwilliam, recorded 335,000 visits in the last year with very high rates of satisfaction and intention to return (BDRC survey 2008-9).  All the museums are involved in outreach and contribute to £351m that tourism brought to Cambridge in 2008-09.

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

3.1 We recognise that cuts are unavoidable but regret very much that they should follow upon a period of expansion and increased numbers of people using museums.  We strongly support the retention of free admission for UK citizens, and are planning to look to other sources of funding to make good some of the shortfall in government funding, including income generating activities within our museum or group of museums.

3.2 Core services such as the Collections Trust’s lead on digital services should also be safeguarded for the good of the cultural sector and the digital economy.

4 Whether the current system, and structure, of funding distribution is the right one?

4.1 For non-national museums the current system of plural funding, accompanied by extensive short-term project funding is deeply unsatisfactory and not efficient or sustainable. The year-on-year assurance of a sufficient level of core funding to address recurrent costs and adequate staffing is essential as this enables museums such as the Fitzwilliam to secure project funding from a variety of sources, for example research councils, charitable trusts and foundations, lottery, corporate private donors. Rolling funding agreements also allow proper planning and this is always going to be more efficient than the short-term approach necessitated by one or two year agreements or project funding.

4.2 Museums are important to overseas business that can be negotiated through cultural tourism and London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will present an unrivalled opportunity for exploring new markets, particularly in China.

5 What impact will recent changes to the distribution of National Lottery funds have on arts and heritage organisations?

5.1 We welcome the announcement that funding of the Heritage Lottery fund will be returned to former levels.  We remain concerned that up to 2012 sport will require large injections of funding and that the Cultural Olympiad raises aspirations and expectations of museums without the availability of any new funding. There is a need to ensure that capital and project funding is adequately supported by revenue funding.

6 Whether the policy guidelines for National Lottery funding need to be reviewed?

We understand that these are already under review? In these difficult times, provision for/flexibility towards revenue funding will be welcome.

7 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?

7.1 While the MLA has been a useful strategic advocate for the museums sector, over the last three years increasing bureaucracy has laid increasing demands on recipients of Renaissance funding to an extent that this has interfered with the delivery of services. We are confident that the much of the sector can be trusted to work efficiently and effectively and understands its business in a way that office-bound administrators do not. We recommend that the Committee looks at the Arts Council’s relationship with its Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) as a model for supporting museums that are already performing well.

7.2 We oppose the MLA’s proposal to wind down all the Renaissance museum hubs and replace them with ‘core museums’ and a development fund from 2011-12. Where Hubs are working successfully and delivering raised standards and value for money – as in the East of England where there is no obvious ‘core museum’ – we consider it highly retrograde to dismantle the benefits of the last seven years’ investment. A development fund which encourages new projects, which cost time and money to set up and wind down, and many of which will not be sustainable long term, does not represent the most efficient and effective use of public funds when compared to using funding to build on long-term, successful investments.

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

8.1 Both businesses and philanthropists should continue to be encouraged to augment core funding for museum but cannot be expected to provide basic funding for maintaining the institution; upkeep must remain a central or local government responsibility.  New ideas for public/private support for museums have yet to emerge.

We are concerned, too, that some collections such as fine art are intrinsically more attractive to private donors and that others such as scientific, plant or geological collections may suffer as a result. Commercial sponsorship opportunities for regional organisations are limited, as regional and local companies have little or no funds for sponsorship, and national companies tend only to be interested in sponsorship opportunities that have national reach.

9 Whether there need to be more Government incentives to encourage private donations?

9.1 There can be no doubt that stronger incentives to donate works of art to museums would greatly encourage private giving to museums. Tax incentives are needed to encourage private philanthropic support for both donations and exhibitions.  We refer the Committee to the US tax regime related to works of art and to the arguments for continued free admission to museums and zero rated VAT for University museums presented to Parliament by Sir Denis Mahon and others. However incentives (or the lack of) are not the only reason for the difference between US and UK attitudes to philanthropy. The US culture of giving relates to the long held concept of individual responsibility for building cities and communities.

September 2010