The proposed DCMS White Paper on ‘Our Culture’: A response by RESCUE – The British Archaeological Trust

Rescue have formulated a response to a recent white paper discussion piece by DCMS, entitled ‘Our Culture’, focused on the funding of archaeology in the UK.

Our response is available at and reproduced below:


Financial resilience and the funding of cultural institutions and organisations

“The second theme will focus on building financial resilience in cultural organisations and institutions through new funding models, to enable them to survive and prosper in a tough economic and financial climate.”

RESCUE -The British Archaeological Trust ( welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the formulation of the forthcoming White Paper on ‘Our Culture’. We offer the following thoughts on the financing of archaeological organisations and institutions.

Under the present system, established in 1990-1 under Planning Policy Guidance note 16 (PPG16) and subsequently carried forward under PPS5 and the current National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), archaeological fieldwork is a primarily commercial activity funded by the development industry and carried out by commercial archaeological contractors. Although not without its problems, this system of ‘preservation by record’ has benefited both the development sector and archaeology by making the conduct of archaeological investigation an known and quantifiable element in the majority of development projects.

Two elements in the process remain severely under-funded and the lack of both a coherent policy and adequate resources in these areas threaten the existence of the commercial archaeology sector and, by extension, the considerable social, cultural, economic and educational benefits that come directly from it. These elements are:

– the funding of the curatorial sector, represented by archaeological planning and development control posts in local planning authorities (LPA)

– the funding of the local and regional museums which have the obligation to curate and conserve the archives that represent the outcome of archaeological excavation and survey; the ‘record’ element in the term ‘preservation by record’.

As our heritage represents a form of common intellectual and tangible property RESCUE believes that the funding of both of these elements should be the responsibility of the state and as such requires a system under-written by the state which will ensure its survival into the future. It is necessary, we would argue, for Government to be seen to take a leading role in providing the infrastructure to maintain these critical elements in any strategy for the historic environment. While we recognise the economic pressure on both local and national government, we do not believe that the nation’s heritage is something that can be disregarded on such grounds. We therefore call on the Government to look closely at the funding of these areas and the numerous benefits that are connected with them. We offer the following suggestions of the ways in which money might be raised in order to fund directly the institutions and structures that are vital to a thriving heritage sector.

Treasure Tax: At present the finders of ‘treasure’ receive 100% of the presumed market value of their find while the cost of conservation and display is borne by a museum, often a local or regional one. We suggest that the costs incurred by the museum or other institution responsible for the conservation and curation of the ‘treasure’ should be deducted from the award made to the finder and landowner. This would spread both the cost and the financial reward more equitably and would ensure that other services would not have to be cut to fund an unearned windfall payment to one or two individuals.

The re-introduction of the aggregates levy fund and its dedication to the funding of local and regional museums and/or regional archive centres

Sponsorship levy: The sponsorship of prestigious exhibitions in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh should entail a commitment to equal funding in the provinces; for every £100.00 paid to sponsor an elite, high-prestige event in one of the capitals, an equal sum should be donated to a central fund for the support of local and regional museums. This would help to overcome the prejudice amongst donors against the provincial cities and county towns and would spread the benefits of sponsorship more equitably across the country.

Cultural windfall tax: A small number of sporting events which lie within the cultural sphere are able to draw in vast amounts of money from the sale of broadcast media rights. It would seem appropriate that the benefit of such windfalls should be spread more widely across the cultural sphere. A levy on the media payments to individual institutions could be ring-fenced and devoted either to the general funding of heritage and culture or to specific named projects such as regional archive depositories or museum-based archive stores.

Value Added Tax reform: Value Added Tax on new buildings should be raised to 20% and reduced on repairs and renewals to a maximum of 2.5% with the aim of raising money to be allocated to culture and heritage while at the same time stimulating the renewal of buildings of quality and distinction in our cities, towns and villages rather than their demolition.

Deposition charges: The standardisation and capping of charges levied by museums on archive deposition and curation to ensure that this is set at a sustainable level across the country.

The capping of fees paid to commercial consultants advising local and national government (on the lines of proposed cap on the fees charged by staffing agencies working in the NHS), the savings to be dedicated to the funding of local museums and archive depositories.

Encourage more use of British archaeological archives by university researchers with an appropriate charging system to cover access and associated staff costs. Funding for this might come from two sources;

– a strict limit on the proportion of external research funding taken by universities for administration and the diversion of some of the money thus released to pay for access to archives and the staff time entailed in facilitating such access.

– A review of pay received in all higher-salaried non-academic university posts with the aim of making savings. This might include removal of introductory, bonus and valedictory payments since these should no longer be considered either appropriate or affordable at a time of austerity.

RESCUE – The British Archaeological Trust
15A Bull Plain
SG14 1DZ

Why the contribution is important

Archaeology remains significantly under-resourced in several critical areas, notably the provision of Historic Environment Record services (currently a discretionary service and one normally targetted by councils who are required to cut funding to non-statutory services) and the funding of archive facilities for the storage, curation and study of the archives generated by commercial and amateuir/voluntray fieldwork projects.  Without the adequate provision of both, important aspects of our shared archaeological heritage are at a high risk of loss and damage.

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