Heritage bodies call for UK furlough scheme to be extended

(Title Image: National Library of Wales)

Culture Committee
The impact of Covid-19 on heritage, museums and archives (pdf)
Published: 7th August 2020

  • Furlough scheme extension considered “essential” to prevent mass lay-offs.
  • Digital exhibits will require ongoing funding to reach new audiences; should be linked to the new curriculum.
  • Capital investment in the heritage sector “may be at risk”.
  • Heritage “could play a key role” in boosting tourism after the pandemic.

“Throughout this inquiry, we have heard from a number of organisations that their commercial income is unlikely to reach pre-pandemic levels for many years. We are therefore once again calling for the Welsh Government to urge the UK Treasury to continue their furlough scheme beyond October 2020.”
– Acting Committee Chair, Helen Mary Jones MS (Plaid, Mid & West Wales)

Furlough scheme extension needed to keep sites running at reduced costs

It ought to come as no surprise that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a multi-million-pound impact on the budgets of major cultural and heritage organisations. The National Museum is expected to lose £1.8million in commercial income and the National Library could have a £1.2million deficit by the end of the year.

A sizable proportion of staff at the likes of the National Trust, National Museum and National Library were eligible for the UK Government’s furlough scheme. With that scheme set to end in October, the National Trust warned that an extension is required to ensure sites can remain operational at reduced running costs.

Innovation & Investment

Some heritage organisations and archives have started digitising their collections to ensure they can still be viewed – and it’s successfully reached new audiences. Some of the material is now being used in schools, but digitisation requires ongoing investment so the momentum isn’t lost.

Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism & Sport, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meirionnydd), said £200,000 has been invested in digital archiving – though the Committee called for an organised strategy where digitisation is developed in tandem with the new national curriculum.

National Museums Wales told the Committee that there was a £60million backlog of capital investments at their eight sites, many projects of which have been paused.

Going forward, witnesses said heritage had a bigger role to play in encouraging tourists back to Wales, with figures suggesting the National Museum generates four times more for the Welsh economy than its annual running costs.

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