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Frozen funds leave EH in the cold

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English Heritage (EH) bosses are set to cut the architects it employs by 25 per cent in a desperate bid to save cash, the AJ can reveal.

The consequences of the government's determination to pare back the organisation's spending are coming home to roost.

Observers have also predicted that the quango will be forced to abandon grant aid, the scheme in which it dishes out cash to renovate Britain's most important listed buildings.

The current problems are a direct result of the government's decision last December to once again freeze EH's funding - ignoring inflation.

This move effectively leaves the organisation with £13 million less cash than last year, and is the third year in a row that the government has frozen its funding.

At an in-house conference last week in Blackpool, delegates debated the effects of the cash-flow problems.

EH's chief conservation officer David Heath said there was 'very real concern' over what would happen as a consequence of the funding problems.

'We do have plans to reduce our architectural complement over the next two years,' he said. 'It is only realistic to observe that the decline in these numbers and the lack of cash are related.

'The fact is that the year-on-year funding has plateaued over the last couple of years and this effectively means a decline in our funding and how much we can spend on grants.

'The only positive is that a lot of our work is over a very long period of time, so there will yet be some kind of grants for a while in the future,' Heath added.

But the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings' caseworker Matthew Slocombe said he was concerned that the latest round of grant packages announced this week could be among the last dished out.

'We are deeply concerned about the funding crisis at the moment,' he said. 'It is fair to say that it is on the rocks.

'In real terms, EH is losing out heavily. If it continues at the current rate, there will be very real reasons to assume that it will decide to do away with the grant aid scheme,' he added.

by Ed Dorrell

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