Government is not paying enough to maintain Britain’s “at risk” museums after a drop in funding, a National Audit Office (NAO) investigation has found.
There are fears for the future of collections, staff, and visitors at UK institutions due to a lack of resources for vital repairs.
Grant aid for national institutions housing priceless artefacts has fallen by 20% in ten years and is not enough to cover the demand for maintenance, according to a NAO report published today.
Representatives of the museum sector hope this will not lead to the public having to pay “foolish” entrance fees to make up the difference in necessary funding.
Vital maintenance could include ensuring the correct humidity in galleries, preserving priceless artefacts, or repairing sometimes crumbling roofs.
The Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) provides grant funding to the sector, but the NAO has found this “has not been enough to cover the amounts the museums have requested for repairs to the estate”.
Meg Hillier MP, chair of the Committee of Public Accounts said: “Failure to spend enough on repairs to the nation’s leading museums has put priceless art and the safety of staff and visitors at risk.
“The museums are telling DCMS that the backlog is getting worse. But the department does not yet know the full extent of the problem.
“The government has only offered sticking-plasters – small amounts of money, too late in the day to do anything more than a short-term fix.”
While the NAO found that the Government department had “secured additional funding for museums’ critical maintenance needs” it concluded following an investigation that “this has not been enough”.
The report published notes that in the latest budget the DCMS received £27 for maintenance, only 7% of the Government funds it requested in order to back vital work.
With a fall in grant funding from £361 million in 2010-11 to £333 million in 2018-19, representatives in the sector hope the demand for resources will not lead to paid entry being introduced at popular attractions like the British Museum.
Sir Ian Blatchford, chairman of National Museum Directors’ Council, said: “To do so would be a foolish distraction when events have revealed how much museums are loved and valued.
“Once we are through the current crisis, we expect further capital and operational needs to be revisited at the next Spending Review.”
A DCMS spokeswoman said: “We are committed to protecting and preserving the extraordinary buildings that hold the UK’s national collection.
“Estates management has been, and will remain, our priority.”