The title of your article 'Councils unfit to protect our heritage, claims EH' (AJ 27.11.03) was misleading. Our latest audit report, Heritage Counts 2003, shows local authorities underresourced, not 'unfit'. For the most part, conservation officers are struggling heroically to keep up with the demand for their time and skills.
Funding for local authority conservation provision has declined in real terms over the last five years. This lack of resources is having a direct effect on the historic environment.
We are currently working with local authorities to address this.
The National Heritage Training Group, a specialist skills development team, was established this year to address the skills shortage within the conservation sector.
English Heritage will also be rolling out a project in 2004 to increase heritage-related skills within local authorities. All initiatives we would hardly invest in if we believed them 'unfit'.
Dr Simon Thurley, chief executive, English Heritage