The Chancellor's Spending Review announcement for 2015-16 contained a significant piece of news for the heritage sector in England, that 'the Government 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, supported by Government investment of £80 million.'
Further details emerged in a statement from English Heritage which explained that whilst the new charity would take care of the National Heritage Collection of sites on behalf of the nation, the rest of what is currently English Heritage would stay within a Non-Departmental Public Body described as the National Heritage Protection Service (though a new name will be sought before it is launched). Apparently, no new legislation will be required and with the Government's capital investment of £80m it is planned, subject to consultation, to set up the new bodies by April 2015.
The revenue settlement for 2015-16 for English Heritage from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is still awaited, but there are inevitably concerns that this will continue the trend of recent years which has led to the heritage budget from Government being badly - and disproportionately - cut back.
The Director of the Council for British Archaeology, Dr Mike Heyworth MBE, commented that, 'We await the revenue settlement for English Heritage with huge interest and some concern. The proposals emerging from the Government will need careful scrutiny to ensure that the conservation of the National Heritage Collection is secured for the long-term, and that the heritage protection service is not weakened due to further budget cuts leaving our heritage even more vulnerable and at risk.
This is even more relevant due to the ongoing cuts to local authority
expertise for archaeology and conservation which weakens heritage protection through the planning process. We know that there is huge public interest in archaeology and history and now, more than ever, we need members of the public to express their support for our heritage to ensure that protection levels are maintained at both the national and local level.'
English Heritage's statement: