Making the case for heritage in the Spending Review
The Heritage Alliance has put forward the case that planning, heritage protection and historic environment services, together with the capacity of communities to shape and care for their environment, should not be singled out as a soft target for further efficiencies, in its representation to the HM Treasury Spending Review process in September 2015.
In the paper, A Country that Lives within its means: Spending Review 2015 (ACTLWITM), George Osborne asked non-protected government departments to outline how they would cut between 25% to 40% of their budgets to achieve the Government’s ambition of eliminating the deficit by 2019-20.
The first red line in the Heritage Alliance’s formal response is to ask Government to confirm stable funding for the new Historic England. The Alliance argues that Historic England needs a steady financial context, as its capacity to generate significant income has diminished with the properties formerly in its care now being passed to the English Heritage charity. This means that opportunities to become entrepreneurial are therefore limited – making Historic England much more vulnerable to reductions in Grant in Aid.
The second red line concerns planning reform – already high in the Governments agenda through Fixing the Foundations (The Alliance’s statement here). The Alliance comments the ‘performance and citizen experience of public service’ (ACTLWIM 2.3), specifically in delivery of historic environment protection, is at a low ebb. The heritage protection regime is therefore in serious danger of being flouted, ignored and falling into disrepute.
The Alliance therefore argues that sufficient resources are needed to deliver the Government’s commitment to ‘empower local places with the tools they need to drive economic growth’ (ACTLWIM 3.17). Furthermore, the response spells out the risks of an under-resourced heritage protection system and urges Government first to seriously review its grant in aid to DCLG to avoid those risks, and second, to make a strong statement in favour of the historic environment to encourage Local Authorities to reassess their spending priorities.
Finally, identifying emerging areas of risk, the Alliance calls for amendments to existing measure to support historic buildings coming out of public ownership; to heritage maintenance funds; and to introduce a scheme parallel to the Listed Places of Worship scheme for listed buildings owned by charities.
For the full response see The Heritage Alliance website here.