The Museums Association has released a report detailing a collapse in funding for local authority museums in the UK in the last 10 years. Averaged out they report a drop of 27% across the country in that period, but in England the situation is significantly worse, with a 34% cut in real terms funding recorded since 2009-10. Various surveys have been conducted on local authority budgets for this period and results vary, but the general picture suggests a reduction in overall finding for local government in this period of around 25%, as billions of pounds have been slashed through the ongoing Austerity Programme.
Cuts at such levels demonstrate how squeezing local authority budgets simply leads to a concentration of funding into statutory functions, with other areas suffering the brunt of the budget hit. Across the country, Museums have been closed, collections mothballed (or worse, sold) and experienced staff have been lost. The suggestion in 2010 was that charities, communities and even altruistic individuals would be empowered to take over the management of assets like museums. Clearly this policy has failed.
Rescue Says: Cultural health is linked inextricably to community health. Communities that lose touch with their heritage lack foundation and direction. Far from feeling empowered, they feel disenchanted. Museums and other cultural hubs and repositories are key contributors to maintaining community cohesion. This should be recognised at the highest level of Government, but unfortunately for the country, they see little beyond the balance sheet.
The Museums Association report can be accessed at Local authority funding report – Museums Association