Council museums cut less than Arts

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A new report suggests that cuts in council museums spending were less than that experienced by other arts spending.

The report, commissioned by arts council England and carried out by the TBR consultancy, suggests that cuts in museums services  was 7% in the 10 years between 2003/04 - 2013/14 compared to -10% in broader cultural services.

The  report , which looks at the financial resilience of local government museums services, also says that moving local authority museums and galleries to trusts did not necessarily make them more financially resilient. It adds that the status of museums, whether as a trust or a local authority department did not make them any more likely to be good at generating income from other sources.

However, although museums may have “been protected”  to some degree from major cuts,  the gap is narrowing and further cuts are on the way. 

The report says that the organisational culture of the local authority is more important factor.  An enterprising spirit, good leadership and good relationships at  the top, particularly between elected members and the museums senior staff,  are also vital.

With local authorities facing “continued and substantial” funding reductions, the  research suggests that many museums services are still inadequately prepared for the cuts to come.

However, the report suggests that by developing an entrepreneurial culture and an appetite for risk and change will be crucial. Effective, pro-active leadership aligned with the council’s priorities and improving skills will build resilience, in the face of change, it adds.

John Orna-Ornstein, director of museums at Arts Council England, said:"Even at a time of challenge many local authority museums are thriving. We're seeing museums across the country whose own enterprising spirit is matched by their local authority – the two must go hand in hand. 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. No one size fits all, but there are plenty of models for strategic, thoughtful change at a time of reduced funding."

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