Castles and palaces under siege from government cost-cutters
The care of castles, country houses and ancient monuments is under threat from Treasury cost-cutters, it emerged last night.
Heritage has been identified as an "inefficient" area of activity which is draining money that could be spent on schools and hospitals.Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, has set up a review of heritage bodies after rejecting the radical option of giving English Heritage's 400 historic properties, including palaces and Stonehenge, to the National Trust. Miss Jowell, who has yet to visit an English Heritage site, is desperate to find a radical scheme before the election to placate the Treasury and its cost-cutting adviser, Sir Peter Gershon.
Sir Peter is understood to have identified heritage bodies as an area where savings could be found to fund "frontline" services. His wide-ranging review of costs in government has already suggested cutting 90,000 civil servants.
Miss Jowell has shown little interest in heritage, preferring "participation" activities such as sport and the arts. Funding for English Heritage has risen by only 3 per cent in the past five years, while the arts have received 53 per cent and sport 100 per cent.
Amenity groups have accused her department of struggling to understand the relevance of historic buildings and the properties which the Government holds in trust, despite the popularity of heritage television shows and evidence that heritage-led regeneration schemes are the most successful.
Miss Jowell's anxiety to act decisively over heritage was such that she commissioned a two-week study from management consultants PKF to look at merging the state-funded English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund - which exists solely on lottery money.
When that study concluded in July that there were few savings to be made, Miss Jowell, who is keen for her ministerial career to continue, set up a departmental review, the terms of reference, and even the existence of which, have yet to be announced.
One source close to the process said: "We do not know what she wants but it is something big."
Posted by daveyravey
18th October 2004ce