Jowell to cut 'wasteful' heritage bodies

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Indy Politics

The Government is to slash the plethora of bodies safeguarding the national heritage to crack down on waste, Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, has warned.

The Government is to slash the plethora of bodies safeguarding the national heritage to crack down on waste, Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, has warned.

Following reorganisations in art and sport, which cut numbers of staff and funding schemes, heritage is the next sector to be targeted.

The aim would be to create savings that could be ploughed back into heritage, including the possibility of funding free access to Britain's country homes and ancient monuments, as has proved so popular at the national museums and galleries. But that is a long-term aspiration dependent on substantial savings, Ms Jowell said.

However, a reorganisation of the heritage sector now appears to be on a hitlist of issues to be tackled in a third term of a Labour government.

English Heritage is the principal body in charge of heritage in England, but there are also the Historic Royal Palaces, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, the Churches Conservation Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF).

In total, it is thought there are up to two dozen different bodies understood to be representing different parts of heritage and conservation. "I think there are almost certainly too many," Ms Jowell said.

"We would like to see a programme of free entry to heritage sites, but there is no way we're going to be able to do that in a public spending settlement that is going to be very tight.

"What I want to do wherever we can is to take money out of organisational infrastructure costs to invest in what I would call, rather militarily, the frontline," Ms Jowell said.

A similar overhaul of Sport England has led to a cut in staffing levels from 570 to 270 at a saving of £40m over five years, which is to be re-invested in grassroots sport. Around 75 different funding schemes were cut to just two.

At Arts Council England, a reorganisation completed last year led to the loss of 100 staff out of 660 with a saving of £20m for the first three years and £8m a year thereafter.

Part of the savings came from scrapping the network of regional arts councils, which were deemed superfluous, and from cutting the number of grants schemes through which individuals or organisations could apply for support from 100 to five.

However, any attempt to tackle the heritage sector is bound to raise hackles.

Defenders of the National Heritage Memorial Fund have long resisted attempts to combine it with the Heritage Lottery Fund, arguing that it has a different function.

The NHMF was set up in memory of the dead from the two world wars. It receives an annual grant from the Government and is regarded as a fund of last resort for saving works of art or buildings of importance to the nation.

It can act much more swiftly than the lottery-funded Heritage Lottery Fund.

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