Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Dr Simon Thurley on behalf of English Heritage (arts 238)

Subsequent to my appearance before the Committee on 19 October, there have obviously been a number of important developments with regard to the funding of English Heritage and the wider heritage sector as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review. I thought it would be worthwhile outlining the implication of these, and the actions that English Heritage proposes to take in order to maintain and protect the services we provide.

Government announced on 20 October that English Heritage's grant in aid would be reduced by 32 per cent. While we have been preparing for some time for the likelihood of reduced funding, the final figure was significantly more than we had anticipated. It has necessitated some very difficult decisions on our part-after much discussion and analysis, the Chair and Commissioners have agreed that we should prioritise those areas that we regard as being at the core of our responsibilities and for which there are no alternative providers. These are

· Our planning advice service to local authorities. This is particularly important in the light of the likely cuts to local authority funding and services.

· Designation-identifying our heritage and its protection through listing and scheduling. This is an activity that no other organisation is in a position to be able to do.

· The maintenance and conservation of the properties in our case, and for which we have a responsibility to look after for future generations.

This approach obviously means that we will have to seek savings elsewhere in the organisation, although given the seriousness of the cut in funding we are still at a relatively early stage in our planning. In addition to further administration and efficiency savings where possible, we intend to look closely at our overlap of activities with other organisations, reduce the total budget for our grant schemes by around one third (a reduction of approximately £11m per year) and to examine ways of reorganising our current staff structure. We expect this reorganisation to involve around 200 staff redundancies, including a number of senior managers. We are also examining further ways of saving money, including changes to our casework systems and changes to the opening hours of our properties.

There is no doubt that the cut in funding will have a dramatic effect on the way that English Heritage is able to carry out its responsibilities. We are particularly concerned that when combined with the likely reductions to heritage services in local authorities this will lead to significant pressure on the historic environment. At the same time, we have had no choice but to reduce our research capacity-thereby reducing our ability to better investigate and understand England's heritage.

We aim to publish a Corporate Plan early in 2011 which will set out and explain what and how we will operate over the next four years. At the same time, we are discussing with other organisations how to minimise the impact of reduced funding on the historic environment.

December 2010