Lincolnshire County Council will consider plans to stop subsidising heritage services in a move towards a new commercial strategy – putting the security of jobs and sites under pressure.
The council’s archive and heritage service employs around 105 people and is responsible for seven sites:
- Lincoln Castle
- Museum of Lincolnshire Life
- The Collection
- Usher Gallery
- Gainsborough Old Hall
- Lincolnshire Archives
- Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Visitor Centre
It’s estimated that the heritage service currently contributes £12 million to the local economy.
Proposals ahead of an Executive meeting on October 4 recommend that the council drops its budget for the service, with funding, rather than coming from the taxpayer, coming directly from income from sites.
While councillors hope the move will enable sites to undergo a “commercial redesign” and increase income, the future of the sites will depend on their ability to run as sustainable and profitable commercial entities.
Currently the running cost of the service is £2.3 million but the county councillor in charge of culture and heritage services says he’s confident changes made can sustain the sites and work towards a surplus income.
Councillor Nick Worth told The Lincolnite: “At the end of the day, we’re trying to make the heritage services sustainable so that by the time we get to the end of 2018/19 we’re going to have a service that is at no cost to the tax payer.
“If we retain the income from the heritage service and make the service itself more commercially sensitive, and the work force more commercially minded then we think we can use that income to sustain the service.”
Currently, income from the service goes into the council’s corporate pot. Should the change receive approval the income would go into a reserve pot specifically for the heritage service.
Questions remain over whether income from the service will be able to match the current subsidies, after the council’s heritage budget drops to nil.
Nick Worth added: “At the minute the income they’re bringing in probably doesn’t quite match the expenditure, but it’s not far off it.
“The cost of the heritage service is about £2.3 million. We think we can cover those costs and by the time we get to 2020 or 2019 we think we’ll actually be making a surplus.
“If we’re going to do this properly, as well as maintaining the income on one side, you’ve got to have a more efficient, commercially designed service on the other.
“We will look at a redesign of the service to see how it can be its most efficient. Whether that means redundancies I really couldn’t tell you at this stage.
“There will be discussions with staff over the coming months and year across the service and that’s will be about how they work and what opportunities there are for the sites to be more commercial.
“No sites are at risk of closure. Not at this stage.”
Charitable trust option
“We’ve already started retaining income from some sites and phasing that in,” Nick added. “If it goes well there may not be a need to make any redundancies.
“In the longer term we’re going to look at, if this works, in the next two years retaining all the income. We can then look at, in that time the possibility of a charitable institution.
“If we make a charitable institution, we can make a saving of around £600,000 just on rates. We can make quite a change around. In the initial time we just want to see if by retaining the income.
“We’ve got to make about £50 million of savings over the next three years on top of what we’ve already made. It’s not something we have a statutory obligation to deliver (apart from the archives).”