Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by the Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales (arts 200)

In submitting these comments we would like to acknowledge the fact that certain duties of government are devolved from Westminster. It is not entirely clear if this consultation applies to England only, but we have assumed it is a UK wide consultation. Our comments relate mainly, but not entirely, to how museums in Wales are affected.

1.0. Summary

· Museums in Wales are already low level of funding, as are those in England who have not benefitted from the successful Renaissance programme. More cuts could lead to widespread closures.

· Proposed closure of MLA is hasty and seems to be based on no strategic overview of the consequences.

· We are concerned that the effect on all the Home Countries may not have featured in any discussions on these actions.

· Private philanthropy has its place but under the current taxation system there is little incentive to support it. When given it usually supports short term projects not long term sustainability. It can never replace public support.

2.0. This submission is on behalf of the Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales.

2.1. The Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales is the strategic body for museum and art gallery professionals in Wales, advocating for the highest standards of museum provision throughout Wales. We represent all types of museums – National, local authority, university and independent, - and their staff whether paid or volunteer. The Federation promotes good practice in museums and galleries and provides support, advice and a forum for discussion of museum issues affecting members.

2.2 . The m useum environment in Wales is different from elsewhere in the UK with the National Museum of Wales holding the majority of collections. The patte rn of local museums – a mix of Local A uthority and independent museums – is characterised by small scale institutions in the main – there are no big city museums in Wales for instance. Despite devolution, the impact of Westminster decisions can have a bigger impact on Wales, due to decisions being made with only the English situation in mind. It is for this reason that the Federation is keen to respond to the consultation.

2.3 . Our comments concentrate on the situation with in museums rather than the wider arts and heritage field .

3. 0 Impact of spending cuts.

3.1. Museums are not a statutory service. Local museums in Wales already operate on minimal staff and resource levels , so any further cuts will have a serious effect. Local authorities are likely to concentrate further on core services – which does not include heritage – and there will be a further squeeze on funding. This will also apply to the independent museum sector that often re c eives modest gra nt aid and/or other forms of support from local authorities. Very small grants – in many cases less than £10,000 - do make a considerable difference and allow the volunteer run mus eum s to operate. Grants to organisations such as small museums may be the first to be cut.

3.2. There is now a real fear that mus e u ms , both L ocal A uthority and I ndependent will close – a loss to the local economy (especially tourism), the local community and to jobs. In addition ther e will be added pressure on any surviving mus eu ms to safeguard collections from closed mus eu ms. Closures will often be of branch museums which serve local communities. Authorities may be reluctant to entirely dispense with the vestige of a museum service but if funding is at a premium they may make such decis i ons.

3.3. Many local museums receive help and advice from the Na t ional Mus eu m of W ales. In addition museums in Wales have links with other National Museums throughout the UK. A recent study by the National Museums Directors Conference highlighted the importance of this. (Summary at ). Examples of this work include museums in Wales borrowing objects from The Tate, via the Museum Associations Effective Collection Programme and a long term partnership between the National Portrait Gallery and Bodelwyddan Castle. If these bodies and institutions are similarly squeezed they will retract to core business and cease or r e duce their pastoral role. Thus local museums will have a double hit.

3.4. In our view i t is essential , if there is to be a reduction in budgets , that th is must be done on a managed basis, based on a strategic overview on a country or regional basis rather than piecemeal. Otherwise we c ould be left with very patchy provision in the future .

3.5. If peoples access to the past through objects is lost that can never be regained. It will not be retrievable once the economy has recovered.

4. 0. Role of Arts Organisations in working together

4.1. We assume this also applies to museum and heritage organ isations too.

4.2. Many mus eu ms already work in partnership on projects on an ad hoc basis. However formal relationships , in terms of the museums we know in Wales , would not lead to any significant savings as mus eu ms are operating from such a low base already. We can see the advantages of large museum services working together (as some examples in England) but there is little opportunity to do this in W ales.

4.3. T he public face of mus eu ms must continue to be local within the community. T he possible closure of some mus eu ms wou l d be a retrograde step. Public services in museums such as the educational role are very popular and rely on a constant level of staffing and resources. Schools are being encouraged to explore new learning environments for their pupils and the benefits of museums education programmes. Museums provide this as a service and operate on a cost covering basis only. Further cuts would mean services such as these would be cut.

4.4. There are few specialist staff in m useums in Wales (outside the National Museum) – it is possible to share experience (and this happens a lot) but not the e xpertise.

5.0. Level of public subsidy. Museums are not statutory a nd therefore at particular risk. Museums are praised for their contribution to society but not supported as such.

5.1. Current system of funding . T here are no well funded mus eu ms in W ales outside the National Mus eu m and even that might be said to be relative . Funding for local authority and independent m useums has continue d to decrease over a number of years – the current situation is not new . Redistributing funding to ensure nationals provide more services to locals may be a way of filling the gap left by closure of MLA (and others).

5.1.1. Admission charges – National Mus eums have free entry due to government policy but many LA and independent mus eu ms have to charge to survive. The difference is not well appreciated by the public – ther e is hostility to any charge. Wh y not ask overseas tourist s from non EU countries to p a y at National Museums and redistribute this income across mus eu ms , or even as a s aving to protect vital services ?

5.2. Lottery the increase in the percentage of lottery funds allocated to heritage is only restoring it to the level it was before 1998. We obviously suppor t this move. How e ver with little capacity mus e ums often struggle to jump through all the hoops of the application process especially for large projects. This is to their detriment although the need is definitely still there.

5.3. Recent changes to arm’s length DCMS bodies – The recent announcement by the Department of Culture Media and Sport that the Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) is to be abolished in 2012 as part of the spending cuts may spell disaster for museums in Wales.

5.3.1. Several functions of MLA have an impact in Wales and it is unclear how these will continue in the future.

5.3.2. There is concern, for instance, that grant support for museum purchases whether works of art or historic industrial equipment will be lost.

5.3.3. Another valuable service that is under threat is the free technical advice from the National Security Advisor. Museums have to follow strict guidelines to borrow items of national importance from other museums. The advice from the National Security advisor enables museums to make decisions on what improvements they need to make to their galleries. In addition the Government Indemnity Scheme administered by MLA provides museums with an alternative to the considerable cost of commercial insurance. These services are crucial for the continuation of the successful network of loans that occur across the UK.

5.3.4. The MLA also operates the Acceptance in Lieu scheme throughout the UK which enables taxpayers to transfer items to museums to offset tax. Many museums in Wales have benefitted from these programmes in the past.

5.3.5. There are also a number of organisations funded through MLA which provide advice, funding and support to museums in Wales such as the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Collections Trust.

5.3.6. A key strength of the successful Museum Accreditation Scheme - a quality standard administered and developed by MLA that gives the public assurance that museums are safe places for their heritage - is that it operates UK wide. How will this quality assurance scheme be maintained and developed in the future?

5.3.7. The loss of the MLA may have bigger consequences for Welsh Museums than their English counterparts as there is a danger that any transition arrangements will not apply in Wales.

5.3.8. The closure of MLA is therefore of considerable concern. The decision seems to have been made with little knowledge of the impact on the sector as a whole. Many sector support bodies have been stripped away in the past (Area Museum Councils, Regional Agencies) and now MLA. If functions go into DCMS (or elsewhere) there will inevitably become even more England focussed, but there are still many services provided by MLA that are UK wide (see examples above). Whilst the MLA/DCMS have said it will maintain some schemes through the transition, we are concerned that some of the specific implications for Wales may be overlooked.

5.3.9. It will not be possible to replicate these services locally – it has been far more efficient to undertake some services and support on a UK basis. Replicating them in Wales will cost more money which obviously is neither desirable nor practical. There is a danger of losing some world leading initiatives such as Accreditation.

6.0. Role of Businesses and philanthropists. B usiness can help but often it is very hard work to source especially for the small museum. It is also usually not for revenue funding. Museum professional s would n eed to develop expertise and skill in making approaches for such funding . At a practical level money needs to be available outside of the capital and big cities and incentives through e.g. taxation need to be encouraged. This has to be done at a UK lev el as it is not a devolved responsibility.

7.0. Private Donations . Encouraging private donations is obviously supported but past evidence is that they are never long term (see above) and often on the donor’s terms. Funding a temporary exhi bi tion is of value but does not help long term sustainability of the mus eum . There are some good examples of private giving – recently the Cardiff Story has had substantial private support but even here it is to set up a new mus eum – not long term support.

8.0. Other issues - volunteering . There is a d anger of over reliance on volunteers – the nature of volunteering will undoubtedly change over time and people may not be so attracted to volunteer in museums . A recent study of volunteering in museums was carried out on behalf of AIM (the Association of Independent Museums) and can be found at

In its executive summary it says ‘competition for volunteers will be greater, and the needs and motivations of potential volunteers will differ to those of today’. Recruiting and retaining volunteers will therefore be a job in itself and should not be viewed as an easy option.

8.1. Earlier this year Volunteer Development Scotland warns that fewer young people recognise the link between volunteering and being a good citizen In 2009 The Institute for Volunteer Research found many reasons for not volunteering, a lack of time, lack of information and awareness and perception and stereotypes. The report gave recommendations for improving this , but it is not an easy process.

8.2. It is n ot sustainable to replac e existing publically funded mus eu ms with volunteer museums. The pool of volunteers is limited and even s uccessful volunteer run museums tend to have some paid input, such as a volunteer co-ordinator or access to advice from a Museums or Heritage Officer. Whilst there are some extremely successful examples of volunteer run museums, organisation and professional input is the key to their success .

September 2010