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Winners, losers and the rest

November 26, 2015

Like many of us the UK government’s spending review announcement yesterday will have a significant impact, and museums will feel these effects.  Over the next 5 years many UK museums will look very different from today and in some cases they may even not exist.  As a visitor this may all seem a bit marginal, is not the most important thing about a museum is if its exciting, friendly, pretty or full of family fun.  All of which is true.  But so is the way museums are supported and funded.  The public purse has provided a lot of support to museums in the past, and this support is changing.  Although more detail is to be announced yesterday’s spending review announcement created winners and losers.

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Pretty: Holbourne Museum’s Lantern Procession

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Friendly: Tullie House 2015 winner of Kids in Museums

Winners: Metropolitan, national museums and projects favoured by Whitehall did well.  The nationals, like the British Museum, Science Museum and V&A will received funding to keep free admissions.  Manchester museums benefited from the current government’s idea of a northern powerhouse.  Other favoured subjects such as military themed venues and the colonisation of the America’s also gets significant investment.  Another winner was the Arts Council which only saw a standstill budget in real terms (in these times that is good!).  This should allow ACE to continue to support the museums sector with major grants and nurturing organisations towards a more sustainable future.

Losers: The majority of publicly funded museums will be receiving severe cuts as a result of the reduction in local government funding.  Local government has taken a big hit at the budget, and the  repercussions for low priority areas (museums and culture) will be harsh.  Many local authority museums or museums that receive grants from local government will have to adapt or will perish.  The biggest impact will be on mid sized organisations in poorer areas, where income generation streams are going to be hard to grow.

The rest:  Most museums are neither nationals or local authority funded, and the spending review has not had any significant impact.  The larger independent museums have been lobbying for tax breaks to encourage more charitable giving and reduction in VAT.  Neither have been announced yesterday, although there have been vague soundings of exploring tax incentives for museums and galleries.

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