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ACE publishes independent report into funding of local authority museums

Earlier this month, Arts Council England published new research into the economic resilience of local authority museums.

The independent report by TBR explores the challenges faced by museums across England following reductions to local authority funding. It highlights the significant level of current and expected cuts, but also finds that many local authority museums are doing well. 

"This research is a challenge to local authorities as well as to museums, to seek out creative ways to see our nation's museums flourish for future generations"

(John Orna Ornstein, Director of Museum, Arts Council England)

The analysis found that local authorities were reported to have used a number of different approaches when implementing budget cuts and may have used different, if not combined, approaches over successive years including:

– Equal cuts or ‘salami-slicing’ across local services, although this approach appears to have waned as time has passed.

– Protection of budgets for statutory services and for services that contribute significantly to council priorities, i.e. protection of a larger number of services than just statutory services.

– Cuts focused on ‘discretionary’ services.

– Efficiency savings by centralising functions such as marketing and introducing new HR and IT systems.

– Cost reductions based on service performances relative to benchmarks, i.e. budgets based on average spend per head in the relevant LGA/CIPFA ‘family group’

– Public consultation on how to make, and how to respond, to cuts across local authority services.

In reviewing local authority museum services’ efforts to increase their financial resilience, it is important to remember the services may take a number of different forms which in turn affect the options available to them. For example:

– A council-owned collection managed by an in-house local authority museum service, e.g.

– Kirklees, Leeds, Waltham Forest, Bath and North East Somerset.

– Multiple collections and buildings owned by a number of local authorities managed by a single in-house local authority service, e.g. Norfolk Museums Service.

– A collection owned by a trust with museum services provided by a local authority, e.g. Cowle Museum, Stroud.

– A council-owned collection and buildings managed by an independent trust, e.g. Whitaker Museum, Rossendale, Birmingham Museums Trust and Bexley Heritage Trust.

Red the report here

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