English Heritage has said it has to slash its grants by a third and shed almost 200 staff in the wake of the government’s spending review
Conservation architects have been waiting to learn the scale of the impact after George Osborne last week plunged his cost-cutting axe into the heritage body, reducing its overall funding by 32 per cent.
Today English Heritage (EH) revealed that as many as 200 jobs will go and a third of the grants it currently hands out to fund conservation work will be lost.
Kate Pugh, chief executive of The Heritage Alliance, said: ‘You can’t cut an organisation by a third and expect it not to have an impact on conservation.
‘There is lot more detail to come, for example, on the focus on fabric - we don’t know if the “protected” areas will be protected fully or simply more than others. [Both] community involvement and education are conspicuous by their absence.’
Jane Kennedy, partner at Purcell Miller Tritton, said: ‘English Heritage grants are often a very important part of what can make a project a reality.
‘The problem for everyone now is getting matched funding.’
Nicholas Thompson of Donald Insall Associates said: ‘EH’s grants can make all the difference, obviously depending on the size of them, [however] they have already been cut over the years.
‘Some of those 200 staff will probably be of qualified architects so it will be a direct hit on professional staff in the employ of English Heritage.’
The organisation has around 30 qualified architects on its books according to the ARB register. Further cuts details will emerge in a soon-to-be-revealed ‘corporate plan’, however a statement from EH said a reduction in services was ‘inevitable’.
A statement read: ‘The cuts imposed on us have required extremely difficult choices but we are determined to fulfil our responsibilities and see our heritage flourish as much as possible.’
The body aims to protect its planning advice, designation and property maintenance services. All existing grant commitments will be honoured.
An EH spokesperson said: ‘English Heritage will emerge as a smaller, but none-the-less effective organisation and our expertise will be more crucial than ever to local authorities throughout the country as their funding declines.’
Comment: Nicholas Thompson, chairman of Donald Insall Associates
[This] Practice welcomes the news that EH commissioners intend to protect the valuable service of giving planning advice, especially given the cuts in local authority funding. We hope that, with careful management, the loss of 200 posts in other areas may be mitigated by greater efficiencies. We have to wonder, however, from a selfish standpoint, about EH’s continuing ability to buy in the services of outside consultants, of which we are one of a number.
The reduction of grant aid will inevitably be a setback to planned projects that are eligible, though it is good that existing commitments will be honoured. These grants are often the trigger for getting projects off the ground that would otherwise be impossible; and they provide an endorsement and moral support for those raising the balance of funds, as well as contributing to the project purse.
Hopefully, once lottery funding is no longer needed to support the Olympics, more of this will return to the heritage sector.