Small comfort in that the Spending Review could have been worse for heritage. Given the preferential treatment given to Arts and Museums and that the actual cut to English Heritage’s revenue budget will not be made public until Friday 28th June, it is particularly disappointing is that English Heritage, the government’s advisor on the historic environment, is not included with arts and museums in the ring fenced cut of ‘only’ 5%.
What is really seismic is the idea of transfering the management of the 420 properties in the National Heritage Collection to a charity which will be licensed by EH’s governing body, the Commission. This model follows the move of the Forestry Commission and British Waterways towards charitable status. More alarming still is the future for the other part of English Heritage, its statutory duties relating to planning and protection and its pivotal role in the heritage sector through expert advice to local authorities and the development industry as well as to the heritage movement which the Heritage Alliance represents.
Alliance Chairman Loyd Grossman said ‘We do need a heritage protection regime – if we hadn’t had it over the last 100 years, we wouldn’t have this fabulous historic environment to attract visitor, tourists, businesses and residents’. The Alliance is concerned that two lesser bodies may not have the profile to keep making the case to government on the value of our heritage to the nation.
The Alliance welcomes the recognition Chancellor George Osborne specifically gave our cultural heritage, as an economic asset as well as for its intrinsic value. If one of his three CSR Principles, however, is ‘to get more from every pound we spend’, then investing in heritage and its vital infrastructure is an effective way to extracting maximum benefit. It is really important the Government understands that money is not simply ‘spent’ on old buildings but invested in the nation’s single greatest asset to create a myriad of business activities that achieve positive financial returns as well as jobs across the country.