Councillor warns of 'staggering' impact of £405,000 Worcestershire archive and archaeological cuts

By Rosemary Collins, 20 December 2018 - 11:16am

Councillor Richard Udall warned spending cuts would harm archive services at Worcester's flagship Hive facility

The Hive Worcestershire archives
Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, based at the £60m Hive facility, is facing steep spending cuts (Credit: In Pictures Ltd/ Corbis via Getty Images)

A proposed £405,000 cut to Worcestershire County Council's archive and archaeology service would have a 'staggering' impact, a local councillor told Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine.

On 13 December the council cabinet approved a 2019-20 draft budget which would cut the funding for Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service (WAAS) from £700,000 to £295,000.

The draft budget states that the council will "review all aspects of the service to bring in efficiencies" and look at new ways of working "including identifying new partners".

It adds that this will include "a full review of all fees and charges and a complete staffing and management review".

Councillor Richard Udall told WDYTYA? that the consequences of the proposed cuts would be "quite staggering".

"It will simply be unable to operate as it currently does," he said.

WAAS is based in The Hive, a £60 million facility, also containing the Worcester public library and the University of Worcester academic library, which was opened by the Queen during her Diamond Jubilee tour in 2012.

Cllr Udall said that approximately 80% of WAAS' budget was spent on staffing costs, so the cuts could lead to "devastating" job losses.

He also warned that WAAS may have to transfer its documents to The National Archives or the British Library, and that the council could "[hand] it over to the private sector to run as a profit-making business".

In addition, he said that cuts to the archaeology service could mean the council was unable to carry out archaeological impact assessments of proposed new developments, leading to a loss of Worcestershire's historic heritage.

He added that he and his fellow Labour councillors considered the cuts "cultural vandalism" and would look at ways to oppose them.

However, Councillor Lucy Hodgson, a Conservative councillor and Worcester's cabinet member with responsibility for communities, told WDYTYA? the council would "try to minimise the impact" of the archive cuts.

"We are looking at how the savings can be achieved," she said. "We haven't got clear plans. The hope is that the public facing service at The Hive will remain open."

The council will now consult on the draft budget before coming to a final decision in May or June 2019.

The news from Worcestershire comes at a time when local archive services are increasingly bearing the brunt of government austerity policies.

Research from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) shows that between 2013 and 2017 archive expenditure was cut by £10 million and 130 full-time jobs were lost, despite a 1.6 million increase in visitor numbers.

In July 2017 Northamptonshire Archives and Heritage Service announced plans to cut free access to 12 hours a week, with access available at limited additional times for a fee of £31.50 an hour.

The council reversed the decision following an outcry from family history groups, but said that it would conduct a review of the service.

In November 2018, East Sussex County Council discussed a Core Offer outlining the minimum level of services it can provide.

The Core Offer proposes that the East Sussex archive service at The Keep would "meet [its] basic statutory duties as a Place of Deposit for public records", but would not provide "the same level of support" to customers online or in person.

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