Jersey Heritage is at a “crossroads” and bracing itself for a period of “decay” after a broken promise by government lost the island’s history custodians £3million of vital funding.
The loss, which comes as a result of failing to maintain its annual grant in line with inflation rises as agreed nearly 10 years ago, has so far led Heritage to make £300,000 of cuts to its services this year.
And now the organisation responsible for managing 34 island monuments – including best-loved attractions Gorey and Elizabeth Castle, as well as the Jersey Museum and Jersey Archive – has warned that closed sites, deteriorating buildings and lost collections could be on the horizon if the government fails to help it achieve a “sustainable” level of funding.
Pictured: Jersey Heritage Chief Executive Jon Carter.
In February, Jersey Heritage submitted a funding bid to the Minister for Economic Development for £1.7m to help it maintain its current service offering, whilst also using around £400,000 to fulfil an ambition to “develop a world-class heritage service”.
The Government Plan didn’t wholly answer the request when it was released in July, however.
Successful proposals by Deputy Montfort Tadier saw 1% of the government’s budget directed to ‘Heritage, Arts & Culture’ in the Government Plan – but it’s unclear how much of the £700,000 proposed for the sector in 2020 will be available to Jersey Heritage.
Jersey Heritage’s Chief Executive has since laid out the problem this poses in a letter to the Scrutiny Panel of politicians responsible for reviewing the Government Plan, warning them that the 2020 funding available to heritage will be “short of that required to recover the considerable loss of value in the grant over recent years”, which “carries risks to the service level and jobs”.
Pictured: Figures comparing Jersey Heritage's offering nearly a decade ago to now.
While a government spokesperson told Express that there had been regular monthly meetings between Heritage and "senior" government officials, correspondence submitted to Scrutiny between Heritage Trustee and Finance Committee Chair Tim Brown and Minister for Economic Development Senator Lyndon Farnham runs contrary to this. In the letter sent in September, Mr Brown said he was "surprised" to have not been able to meet anyone to discuss the Government Plan in advance of its publication.
It’s the second potential funding crisis to hit the organisation in 10 years, with difficulties in 2010 leading to a major restructure that saw new charges introduced, site closures, some services withdrawn or outsourced and as much as 30% of staff impacted through redundancy or loss of earning.
Since hitting that low, Jersey Heritage evolved its processes and offering and has since self-generated around £30million.
Despite the erosion of its annual grant to the tune of £800,000 each year due to the government’s broken promise, Heritage now offers more than ever, having expanded the number of sites it looks after and growing visitor numbers in line with the island’s wider tourism ambitions.
Pictured: Jersey Heritage's annual grant has not kept up with inflation.
But that offering has been branded “unsustainable” if the funding arrangements don’t change.
In the short-term, as well as maintaining significant cuts already made to marketing and maintenance, the service says it will have to look at slashing its exhibition and events programme by £100,000 and achieving £100,000 in savings by closing some sites over the winter.
These cuts would be made in order to fund items deemed "essential" to maintining the "minimum standards of operation", such as reproofing Hamptonne and maintaining "environmental controls at museums", without which Jersey Heritage may risk losing loaned items in its collection.
Failure to get secure more funding for Heritage could also impact the government’s ability to follow the law, as Jersey Archive – whose Director has already spoken publicly about how staff shortages are putting vital records at risk – could struggle to keep up with the level of public records needing to be catalogued.
Pictured: Jersey Heritage is also responsible for the Archive, which has a statutory obligation to manage public records.
In the meantime, Jersey Archive is also waiting on a bid for contingency funding to help it address staffing.
But, despite funding dominating much of the political conversation, Chief Executive Jonathan Carter emphasised to Express that he wants there to be more discussion about the role of Jersey Heritage in the island.
“For a long time, too long, the relationship between the government and the cultural organisations has been focused on money rather than ambition and the government policy necessary to deliver it,” he said.
The comments come as organisation is in the process of drafting a Heritage strategy, which will guide its future relationship with government and the ambitions for future growth and interaction with islanders.
Among its hopes for the future are converting more sites into touristic properties to let, and creating a service dubbed “world class”, with the help of UNESCO Geopark status for which an application is currently in progress.
The Government Plan is due to be debated in November.
CLICK BELOW to read Jersey Heritage's full Scrutiny submission...
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