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£161m plus of Heritage Lottery Fund money being diverted from Museums

The House of Commons culture, media and sport committee expressed “deep concern” about raiding funds from the culture sector to be directed towards the games.

Extract from: ‘Caring for our collections’ , Report of House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, 7 6 07

Effect of the 2012 Olympics

98. In her keynote speech to the Museums Association Conference on 23 October 2006, the Secretary of State said that the 2012 Olympics would be the opportunity of a lifetime—not just in London, but all over Britain—and that no one should see it as a threat. It was very clear from the evidence to this inquiry that the sector does see the Olympics as a unique opportunity but also sees it as a very serious threat. We found wide acknowledgment that the Olympics would be an exciting and important project for the whole country, providing huge opportunities for the cultural sector to “showcase the very best of our cultural activity to a global audience and to create a lasting cultural legacy”.

The Museums and Libraries Association, which saw the Olympics as a “once-in-a-lifetime chance for the sector to work collectively to position itself as a major resource for the cultural programme”, told us that its engagement with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) had made it possible to encourage institutions right across the country to see the value in being part of it. MLA had received over 100 responses to its consultation on Olympic opportunities for museums, libraries and archives, and 80% of those institutions had indicated that they would be actively engaged in contributing to the Cultural Olympiad which will begin in 2008.

The MLA told us that LOCOG had been quite enthusiastic about the potential for staging activities and events around the country based on museums and was hopeful that some funding might come for this from LOCOG’s relatively modest budget which covers educational and cultural activities.

99. There was, however, some scepticism about whether opportunities for arts and heritage organisations to take part in Olympic-related programmes would have much impact beyond London and some parts of the south-east. The overall picture which emerged from the evidence was of a sector apprehensive that a wonderful opportunity would simply be missed because, to pay for the Olympics, resources would be diverted away from an already under-funded sector just at the time when investment was most needed.

The sector feels that it is being asked to do more for less money: it is being exhorted to show what it can do and generate a lasting legacy for the nation, not only without any additional or dedicated funding streams with which to do it, but with substantially reduced funding. As Ms Virginia Tandy, the President of the Museums Association, put it, we “cannot do a cultural Olympiad on a shoestring and a sporting Olympiad on significant funds. It will not work.”

100. When we took evidence for this inquiry the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was anticipating losses of income, based on DCMS estimates, of £75 million less in lottery ticket sales and up to £68 million less as a result of changes in the allocation of Lottery proceeds, mostly in the three years leading up to 2012. So when, in March 2007, the Secretary of State announced that there would be an additional allocation of £675 million of Lottery money to help fund the 2012 Games, we asked the HLF to let us know what the impact on HLF funding would be. HLF told us that there would be a further deduction from income of £90 million, so that the total cash loss from heritage to the Olympics would be £161.2 million plus the diversion of resources through the special Olympics Lottery games.

HLF has acknowledged that the further deduction was a blow, which would seriously reduce HLF’s grant-making for the foreseeable future, making it impossible for the HLF to support major projects, like Kelvingrove and the transformation of the British Museum, as it had done in the past. The Chairman of the MLA said that the cuts “put at risk the opportunity to showcase our country and create a legacy to the Games”.

101. Diversion of lottery money is not the only way in which the Olympics will affect funding for the cultural sector. As LOCOG is seeking to raise substantial funds from the private sector for the Olympics, museums see it as inevitable that this funding will be sought from the same limited group of major sponsors which now support them, and that the increased competition will be weighted against them because of the Olympics’ high profile and priority.

Cuts in government funding will also reduce museums’ capacity to leverage in other funding, making it materially harder to raise private funds or encourage private gifts. The V&A’s impression was that instead of being a “call to arms” for culture, the 2012 Olympics were diverting resources away from culture—not only funds, but also the time and attention of public bodies, and the Tate observed that it would be highly unfortunate if the sporting celebrations in east London in the summer of 2012 were to be marred by gallery closures and restricted museum services in the heart of the capital.

102. During our visit to Athens we were told that the 2004 Olympics had had no adverse effect on funding for museums in Greece, indeed in the run up to the Olympics, there had been an extensive programme of building new museums, and restoring and upgrading existing museums and sites, at a cost of about 685 million euros. We were particularly impressed to see how it had been possible to provide wheelchair access to the Acropolis, thus enabling members of the Paralympic teams, as well as other visitors, to enjoy one of the world’s most famous heritage sites. Nevertheless, our hosts told us that museum visit numbers had dropped during the Olympic year.

103. We share the concerns expressed about the extent to which much needed resources are being diverted away from the sector to pay for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It seems to us perverse that museums should be presented with the outstanding showcasing opportunities which only the Olympics can offer, while the diversion of essential funding will inevitably make it more difficult if not impossible for many of them to make the most of those opportunities. We also question the balance between the funding, for example, for elite athletes to gain more medals, and the damage to our museum infrastructure and ability to illustrate to the world Britain’s cultural heritage.

From: pages 35-37, ‘Caring for our collections’ , Report of House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, 7 6 07

PDF downloadable from; DCMS Select Committee

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