England's culture sector to receive £850m in extra funding from Treasury

The budget, to be announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday, has earmarked £300m for museums to "redevelop and refurbish their sites"

Tate Liverpool is one of a number of UK museums that will share £300m in a post-pandemic funding boost

Tate Liverpool is one of a number of UK museums that will share £300m in a post-pandemic funding boost

The culture sector in England will receive £850m in extra funding from the Treasury in the Budget to be announced this week by Chancellor Rishi Sunak. “The country’s most cherished museums and galleries will benefit from a £850m post-pandemic funding boost to breathe life back into our world-renowned cultural and heritage hotspots, the Chancellor is expected to announce [on 27 October],” says a statement from the UK Treasury.

Museums such as the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Tate Liverpool and the Imperial War Museum in Duxford will each get a share of £300m for “arm’s-length body estate maintenance”, the Treasury says. The three-year investment will help museums, galleries and cultural hotspots redevelop and refurbish their sites, it adds. The funding is supplementary to regular annual grant-in-aid subsidies for the 15 national museums sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Meanwhile, £125m will go towards helping build the Natural History Museum’s new scientific research centre in Oxfordshire. More than £14m will be used “to continue to move museum collection items from Blythe House [in West London] and into modern storage”.

The Treasury has also announced that more than £75m will be spent to help 110 regional museums, such as the York Railway Museum, and libraries improve their buildings and digital facilities as part of the £850m budget boost. Hundreds of libraries have closed across the country however over the past decade (according to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s (Cipfa) 2019 survey of UK libraries, 773 have shut down since the Conservative-Liberal Democrats government implemented austerity in 2010).

Last November, in the government spending review, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) received a slight boost—2.3%—in spending (this review only covers the period from April 2021 to April 2022). More than £320m was ring-fenced for grant-in-aid for museums, many of which were not eligible or did not apply for the government’s £1.57bn emergency bailout.

In March, Sunak announced that more than £300m would be added to the £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund while national museums will receive £90m in emergency funding to help keep them afloat.

UPDATE (28 October): Sunak confirmed the £850m cash injection in his Budget statement and also outlined that he is extending tax reliefs for museums and galleries until March 2024 which could save the sector around £245m.

Sharon Heal, director of the UK Museums Association, tweeted: “We welcome support for museums in the budget. We are still looking at the details of the package but are pleased to see government recommit to funding for the renovation of regional museums in England & hoping that original £100m commitment will be honoured [Sunak pledged that £100m would go go towards capital investment, for essential maintenance and repairs, in last November’s Spending Review].”

Heal adds: “Also pleased that Museums & Galleries exhibitions tax relief extended and doubled in value; please make permanent & ditch sunset clause.”

Caroline Norbury, the chief executive of the advocacy organisation, Creative Industries Federation, welcomed the £850m in extra funding but said in a statement: “The limited expansion of R&D tax relief—which continues to exclude many in our sector—is disappointing, as is the missing arts premium, an election manifesto commitment made only two years ago.”

The £270m arts premium for secondary schools appears to have been shelved due to Covid-19 pressures, reports the Arts Professional website. Schools were due to receive £25,000 each per year but the policy, a Conservative Party 2019 election pledge, has been put on hold.