The Kiss Goodnight for English Heritage

Posted on June 26, 2013


For months now the Heritage Sector in England has been bracing for the budget news for English Heritage and it has finally come. It might be one of the bravest faces being put on by EH I have seen as the government has done more than cut the budget, they have cut English Heritage. Here is the press release-

It starts out very cheery, we got £80 million more, yes go team. The title of the release is “£80 Million Boost for Heritage” but then you read on and see,

“The Government has announced that it will work with English Heritage to consult on establishing a charity to care for the historic properties in the National Heritage Collection on a self-financing basis”

Yes, the government is getting rid of English Heritage, but keeping the name.

“Under current plans, the new charity will be set up by March 2015.  It will retain the name English Heritage and in due course, will be completely self-financing and no longer need tax-payer support

Basically, EH is dead, long live EH. This announcement is  light on details so exactly how this will all shape up is not exactly known but from the announcement it appears that by 2015 English Heritage will be on its own without government support. This is the aspect that is very scary. While a charity could be as good as they claim in the press release,

“Charitable status will give English Heritage the dual freedom to grow, develop and raise funds for the National Heritage Collection of historic sites, whilst allowing The National Heritage Protection Service to concentrate on providing impartial, expert advice. This new structure will offer a bright future for our wonderful historical environment, and a great deal for the taxpayer; keeping the properties themselves in public ownership and managing them under a licence to ensure their historic integrity is preserved.”

It is scary the time tables and funding involved. The 2011/12 budget of English Heritage was 175.4m of which the government contributed 121.2m of that. It looks like the government has given 2/3s of a yearly support to English Heritage to get rid of it. Effectively, they are giving English Heritage the rest of the 2015 years budget (calender year), as “support” while they kick them out. Again, the statement is light on details but ‘will be completely self-financing and no longer need tax-payer support’ reads that EH has to make up 121.2m in funding. While a date of March 2015 makes it seem like they have less than two years, roughly two and a half years with the “gift”, to make up that funding.

Edit-  a more detailed look at the numbers, if gov still supports some funding, and what might be cut here-

Hopefully, more details will arrive soon on funding and time scales but it does not look good. Currently, EH brings in 54.2m outside of government sources. To make up 121.2m in 10 years they would have to increase revenue by 12m a year. If it is five, that would have to be 24m a year (with inflation). The other option would be to make up the 70% shortfall in their budget with cuts. However, they are already cut to the bone, so cutting more of the budget does not seem like on option without massive loss in services provided.

While I would like to think that the government would give them 10 or 20 years to get on their feet the 2015 date sounds very political to me. Just in time for an election in which the government can claim to be cutting costs. Maybe it has to do with accounting and they will give the same amount to the new charity but it will be counted different in the budget so it looks like they are cutting expenses, one can hope.