Written evidence submitted by the Nautical
Archaeology Society (NAS) (arts 78)
Based in the UK, the NAS is a key international
society for nautical archaeology.
Britain's heritage is a unique national
asset that defines Britain's cultural and historic identity and
is of great social educational and economic value.
Taken as a whole, embracing tourism,
publishing, media and museums as well as aspects of environmental
protection and conservation, Britain's heritage industry is very
largely funded from non-government sources.
Nonetheless, public sector funding is
critical at both national and local level to ensure effective
delivery of the substantial economic and social benefits that
accrue from well managed, effectively promoted heritage.
There is a major challenge facing the
UK across aspects of heritage at all levels. Funding of heritage
is complex, relying on complex interrelationships of public, commercial
and voluntary funding sources.
UK public sector heritage services have
already been subject to substantial downward pressure from below
inflation budgets at both national and local level. At the same
time the growth in commercial, private and community activity
has been burgeoning, leaving no surplus capacity to squeeze out
of public services.
Considering the key role that seafaring
has played throughout Britain's history around the world, public
funding for maritime heritage has been a poor relation of heritage
Removing the catalyst that public sector
funding provides is likely to result in much of the fabric of
heritage funding unravellingespecially if done precipitately
before other arrangements can be put in place.
The potential of the private sector to
replace public services is unlikely to lead to real savings of
any significance, and is not appropriate for formal regulation.
Although Britain has a very well developed
and vibrant voluntary sector heritage, it cannot readily help
without more support in capacity building and training, and development
of less bureaucratic funding models.
A major shift of funding for heritage
could lead to irrecoverable loss of capacity and services rather
than useful savings.
This would be a major set-back when the
need for improved guidance, advice and support, and a more modern
legislative regime are essential if Britain is to remain a major
force in the conservation and promotion of maritime heritage nationally
1. At the same time as tackling the public
finance deficit head on, the new coalition Government in Britain
is promoting the concept of a "Big Society" in which
individuals and community groups do more for themselves. The combination
means swingeing cuts in public expenditure are coming down the
line, and we are only just beginning to glimpse what they may
entail. The philosophy of rolling back government and encouraging
people to do more for themselves is appealing to many, and over-expenditure
on unnecessary activity by the State can certainly be wasteful.
But the crucial question is what activities are unnecessary, and
which do or do not need to be done by Government?
The Importance of Heritage and Value for Money
2. Heritage services are often seen as something
of a luxury, especially when compared with education, health or
looking after the elderly. But this is far too simplistic. Taken
as a whole, the heritage industry in the UK is a big part of the
economy, embracing tourism, publishing, media and museums as well
as aspects of environmental protection through development funded
work to conserve or record heritage assets under threat. Most
of this activity is self-financing, and tourism is Britain's biggest
source of valuable export revenues after financial services.
3. In recent years the economic and social
benefits of well-managed heritage and of enabling people to study
it for themselves have started to be recognised. But this has
hardly registered at the scale where heritage is just a footnote
in the bigger picture of the savings that need to be made across-the-board.
4. A key issue is that the present very
small public sector budgets for heritageat both national
and local levelare essential catalysts in providing guidance,
advice, information and other data services and pump-priming grants
that ensure the effectiveness of how the private and voluntary
sectors deliver public benefits in conservation, education or
economic prosperity. They also crucially act as a key factor in
terms of leverage to attract other resources. The bigger the benefits
levered in by public expenditure, the more devastating cuts are
liable to be. This is especially true of the heritage sector.
Public funding and possible cuts in the offing
5. So far the Government has announced a
general target of reductions in expenditure in the order of 20-25%
in non-ring-fenced areas. Specifically within the heritage sector
it has announced an intention to abolish various heritage quangos,
including the Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites and the
Museums and Galleries Commission. However, these bodies perform
useful functions that need a degree of independence and the savings
to be madeespecially in the case of the Advisory Committeeare
minimal. These proposals look like an ideological move to give
the impression of action, not intended to make real savings or
improve functions. This does not bode well for the real cuts to
6. Much bigger questions have yet to be
tackled concerning the whole structure of heritage serviceswhether
national heritage agencies will survive in their current form;
whether state owned heritage properties will be sold off to be
looked after by the voluntary sector, as suggested recently for
national nature reserves; whether non-statutory local authority
museum and other heritage services will survive at all. It is
not difficult in the present climate to see major changes in how
muchand whatthe public sector will be able to do
in future, with much greater emphasis on getting back to basic
7. The role of local authorities is of particular
importance in the application of heritage legislation through
planning and advisory roles and delivery of heritage services
at local level, including museums, libraries, archives, historic
environment records and support for activities involving community
groups. But these services are especially vulnerable: they are
not statutory requirements services, and because most are delivered
at County or Unitary authority level, they are in competition
with key services such as education social services for adults,
which are more or less to be ring-fenced, and with other services
(such as fire public health etc) which are statutory requirements.
With ring fenced services accounting for 60% or more of relevant
budgets, the swingeing cuts being imposed look very likely to
have to be shared wholly disproportionately among other services
some of which are statutory obligations. The result seems likely
to be the decimation of non-statutory heritage services at local
8. While DCMS takes overall responsibility
for maritime heritage, it is far from being the only national
government department with key responsibilities and relevant budgets.
It is important to stress that the MoD (especially through defence
estates, but also for example the service museums and HMS Victory),
DoT (through the Receiver of Wreck and as owner of numerous merchant
vessel wrecks), DEFRA (as parent department of the MMO, marine
exploration and fisheries), DTI and Climate (as departments for
regulating offshore development), the Crown Estate (as owner of
the seabed), and FCO through UK representation on international
bodies), also have key responsibilities even though the scale
of funding is mostly minimal.
9. Indeed, all these bodies are heavily
dependent on English Heritage and the other heritage agencies
in the devolved administrations for advice and guidance provided
by a tiny handful of experts. As already noted above, another
important area of funding comes directly or indirectly under the
Departments covering education and local government where changes
in central government support can have massive knock-on effects
for non-statutory local government heritage services.
10. It is important to appreciate how different
aspects of these budgets and services come into playall
on a very small scale but with massive influence on conservation
and appreciation of the nation's maritime heritage. The tiny number
of people responsible for these areas in DCMS English Heritage
and their devolved equivalents are fundamentally important to
retaining and developing momentum to address the challenges facing
maritime heritageboth in terms of pressure for development
onand off-shore and the urgent need for better, simpler
legislation. These have been outlined in the response from the
Joint Nautical Archaeology Committee and we refer the Committee
to their response. From our perspective as an international NGO
based in one of the world's great maritime nations, we would only
wish to stress how serious and pressing these issues are in relation
to the UK's international reputation in maritime heritage.
11. Coverage of maritime heritage has been
improved in the last decadeespecially through support from
the Aggregates Levy and Heritage Lottery and increasing awareness
of responsibility of off-shore developers. The Marine Act and
establishment of the MMO offers further potential, but the expert
input to support this is still miniscule and there is still a
long way to go. DCMS has a critical role in ensuring that it continues
to provide the crucial cross-departmental advice required. This
growing critical need for guidance, advice and support should
not be jeopardised by an unthinking mantra to make across-the-board
savings that may be piffling in financial terms but devastating
in capacity to manage the nation's maritime heritage effectively.
12. The big danger is that removing or substantially
diminishing the central government catalyst will save very little
but have much more serious impacts in the indirect loss of substantial
private sector and voluntary capacity for safeguarding and studying
Britain's maritime heritage and weaken the very substantial economic
and social benefits arising from tourism, education, volunteering
13. The already major problem of finding
anywhere to conserve and retain maritime heritage both nationally
and locally, is especially likely to be exacerbated at the local
level, where ring fenced services and statutory functions of local
authorities are likely to take precedence over non-statutory heritage
services. It is likely that museum and archives services, which
in many places are already under massive pressure will be decimated,
despite these being of vital importance for both terrestrial and
maritime archives and records. These underpin research into Britain's
history, including the burgeoning interest in family history for
which maritime archives are especially detailed and informative.
Nautical and Maritime Heritage FundingNAS
14. As a UK charity working as an international
NGO, the NAS is a charity concerned with promoting exploration
and conservation of a particular aspect of heritage. Despite having
only 2.5 FTE employees and two further professionals acting on
a part time consultancy basis, the NAS has a high standing both
internationally and nationally. We publish the leading peer-reviewed
journal in the field; over the last 23 years have developed the
only UK specialist heritage training course to have been exported
to c. 20 other countries round the world, and like many other
societies have developed a wide range of collaborative projects
with local groups and local authorities that have been very effective
in raising interest in maritime heritage, and for example have
been doing pioneering work with UNESCO.
15. Much of the NAS's income comes from
publications (especially the International Journal of Nautical
Archaeology) and from training courses and international training
franchise and membership. Most other funding comes from some national
government grants (eg English Heritage, Cadw, Historic Scotland,
Crown Estates), some Heritage Lottery funding, some funding from
collaboration with local authorities (especially via NAS North
East, an especially strong and productive branch run in close
collaboration with the Teesside local authority at Hartlepool).
16. In a very small way this illustrates
the variety and diversity of funding sources on which voluntary
sector heritage bodies typically rely. They are not entirely independent
of each other, but commonly rely on partnerships and arrangements
that have been built up over time and where part of the work often
relies on multiple sources with commitments to lever in other
contributions in cash or kind.
17. These inter-linking and often inter-dependent
sources of funding from multiple sources is both typical and highly
significant in understanding how voluntary sector heritage activities
are resourced. Like patterned knitwear, pulling out a strand of
one colour is liable to lead to the whole garment unravelling.
Re-knitting the remaining colours takes time, patience and resources,
which may not be available.
Other means of delivering heritage services
18. There is much expertise in universities,
professional and voluntary bodies, already much engaged in a wide
variety of projects, that could be drawn upon further for certain
rolesindeed, the composition of the expenses-only ACHWS
is a prime example. Although it is possible that some services
might be delivered at lower cost by the private sector, the savings
are likely to be minimal: staffing levels have already been under
considerable pressure and salaries and overheads would be much
the same in any event. There are also important issues of public
accountability where legal regulation is involved.
19. The Government has been keen on the
idea of the Big Society, and although it is not overtly being
prompted as an alternative to public services in the face of swingeing
cuts, the implication is that there is little else available.
Britain does have a vibrant voluntary heritage sectorincluding
maritime heritagewhich embodies a significant amount of
professional expertise; but expecting it to step in to do more
makes a lot of assumptions about its capacity to act. The Big
Society idea has not (as far as we know) been examined in terms
of different sectoral interests, and capacity to respond depends
a great deal on how non-profit making bodies are organised.
20. In the heritage sector most charitieslike
the NAShave very few if any employed staff and know all
too well that recruiting and training volunteers to be effective
is not a tap that can suddenly be turned on or off.
21. Fundraising and obtaining grant aid
is another key issue. Since the 1980s the concept of "core
funding" has become anathema to governments (and grant-giving
bodies such as the Lottery and private grant-giving trusts) wanting
to ensure good value for money in public expenditure, making project-funding
de rigueur. But one result is that more and more time is
now spent making multiple applications for money from an increasing
diversity of over-subscribed funds, adding a whole layer of administrative
costs to getting anything done. This sort of micro-management
of grants is immensely bureaucratic, and in the case of charities
fails to recognise that the trust to do publicly beneficial work
is already embedded in their constitutions.
22. Other forms of fundraising (via donations,
legacies, fundraising events, membership drives, etc) also require
a considerable amount of time and energy, and for any long-term
sustainable funding substantial administrative support and specialist
expertise that needs strategic development over many years, and
again cannot suddenly be turned on.
23. If the Big Society is about trusting
voluntary and community organisations to do more public good in
times of financial austerity, a first step for Government will
be to provide active support for capacity building without bureaucratic
micro-management of every project. However, this is not a quick-fix
solution, and there are likely to be huge problems where existing
key professional capacity is lost, especially given the likelihood
of it never being re-established.
24. There is an inevitable crisis in public
sector funding heritage in the view of major cuts in national
and local expenditure, especially given the ring-fencing of some
major budgets and the lack of statutory requirements for heritage
25. Britain's heritage, including its maritime
heritage which is of major international importance, is of immense
economic and social value to the nation. Its conservation, study
and enjoyment is guided, supported and promoted on the basis of
miniscule public expenditure that acts as a vital catalyst to
bring in other, often highly interdependent resources both in
cash and kind. This could easily be unravelled by unthinking across-the-board
26. There is a very real danger that any
sudden reduction or shift in existing funding will lead to loss
of capacity and services rather than savings. This would be a
major set-back when the need for improved guidance, advice and
support, and a more modern legislative regime are essential if
Britain is to remain a major force in the conservation and promotion
of maritime heritage nationally and internationally.
27. The private sector and voluntary sector
do have the expertise to do even more to help support or replace
public services, but it is highly questionable that this would
lead to real public expenditure savings of any significance. There
is scope for voluntary bodies to do more education, training and
community work as a contribution to conservation and research,
but it requires more support for capacity building and development,
and less bureaucratic funding models.