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16% drop in local authority spending on England’s museums since 2010

A report commissioned by Arts Council England claims a 36.7% reduction in “real terms” funding from local government since the start of the previous decade.

A 16% decrease has been observed in local government funding for museums in England since 2010, according to new research.

The fall in funding, which amounts to more than 1% per year, comes as a result of increased budgetary pressures for local authorities.

The data comes from a report commissioned by Arts Council England (ACE) and created by DC Research and Wavehill.

Comparing budgets from 2009-10 with those of 2022-23, the report shows a cash reduction in local authority expenditure on museums and galleries from £286.45 million in 2009-10 to £241.01 million from 2022-23. According to the researchers, it equates to a 36.7% reduction in “real terms” once inflation is considered.

The report was created after consultation with 35 stakeholders from 30 museum services.

The report states that one museum trust reported a 47% drop in their funding from their local authority between 2011-12 and 2022-23. Another reported a similar scale reduction since 2015-16, whilst another reports an 80% difference between 2009-10 and 2022-23.

ACE said the creation of the report is hoped to “produce a comprehensive set of data that can support museums, local authorities and stakeholders with budget planning, and encourage a strategic and collaborative approach to considering the funding challenges facing both museums and local government.”

In its conclusion, the report provides a set of recommendations, including greater collaboration across the sector, and better support for the workforce.

Liz Johnson, Director, Museums & Collections Development at ACE said: “The Arts Council is not able to replace local authority funding, but it is our responsibility as the national museums development agency to advocate for their value in public life and to work with central and local government to continue to make the case for sustained investment in museums.

“The sector is keen to have the tools to address the challenges they face and we are here to support them, and to help them work together, so that we can create inspiring museums and collections that are fit for the future.”