Free museums to be spared worst of budget cuts


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The Independent Online

Britain’s publically funded museums are to be spared from the worst of the Government’s spending cuts, the Chancellor George Osborne is preparing to announce.

Under plans agreed with the Department of Culture, The Independent understands that museums and art galleries will see their budgets reduced by half that faced by other Government departments.

At the same time the Treasury will allow them to borrow up to £40m per year from Government to invest in future growth and give them access to their reserves, so that they can save up major donations and spend them over time. The move comes amid warnings that several museums may have to close if they were forced to find budget savings of 10 per cent.

The Science Museum Group, which runs several attractions around the country, issued one closure warning. The National Coal Mining Museum near Wakefield in West Yorkshire yesterday said it was at risk alongside Bradford’s National Media Museum, the National Railway Museum in York and the Museum of Science and Industry (MoSI) in Manchester.

However, under the deal with the Treasury the cuts will now be 5 per cent, which many major institutions believe will be manageable.

Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury announced today that six more Government departments, including the Home Office and DCMS, had agreed to cut their spending by up to 10 per cent.

The agreement means that a third of the planned £11.5bn savings to be made by 2016 have been achieved.

However, there is still no agreement with the Ministry of Defence or the Department of Business over their budget cuts. Mr Osborne will announce where the cuts will fall in his Comprehensive Spending Review later this month.

Speaking this morning, Mr Alexander said that more progress had been made compared to the previous CSR in 2010

“We’re around a third of the way there to the total, but of course discussions are continuing with the remaining departments that haven’t settled yet,” he said. “Those discussions are going well.”

In a letter to the chairs of nationally important art galleries and museums Mr Osborne said he was keen to give them new powers. “Museums are of huge economic, as well as cultural, importance to the UK,” he wrote.