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Archaeology Matters

Cuts to archaeology services

The current economic climate and austerity measures have left many local authority historic environment services struggling with significant cuts to their budgets. This had led to the loss of dedicated staff and in some cases loss of services all together.

The Council for British Archaeology is raising awareness of the important role these front-line services play in the protection and promotion of the nation’s heritage. We are also promoting the important role that local groups can play in supporting these services, particularly in the face of ongoing budget cuts.

In response to the cuts to local authority advisory services the CBA has set up a Local Heritage Engagement Network with funding from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

As part of The Archaeology Forum (TAF) the CBA has also been involved in initiating a Government review into the future of local authority services.

Damage to built heritage

What do Local Authority budget cuts mean for archaeology?

Only 5% of England’s archaeological sites are designated, or formally protected by law. This means that the majority of our heritage depends on the planning system for its care and protection. This system in turn relies on a network of historic environment specialists, including archaeologists and conservation officers, whose role is to advise Local Authorities on planning decisions and to maintain the Historic Environment Record (HER).

However, in recent years many of these services have had their budgets cut and we are now starting to see black holes emerging where local planning authorities have little or no access to specialist archaeology and conservation advice. A recent report has shown that, over the past 8 years, the number of historic environment specialists providing advice to local authorities in England has fallen by over 32%.

What can we do?

Through the Local Heritage Engagement Network the CBA are working with local groups to raise awareness of the role of these services and their importance to decision makers, including local councils and MPs.

The CBA has responded to a number of consultations on funding to archaeological services in recent months. For more information, and for copies of the letters we have sent, please see our news items on the Tyne and Wear Budget Consultation and the Proposed Budget Cuts at Worcestershire Archives and Archaeological Service.

Government Review into Local Authority Archaeology Services

The Government commissioned a national review on the future of Local Authority Archaeology Services in 2013/14. The CBA and many others contributed to the public consultation. We are currently awaiting a formal response from the Department of Culture Media and Sport on the findings of this review.

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