The Welsh Government’s publication of their draft budget for 2024/25 has seen severe funding cuts imposed on the heritage sector, that are being characterised as an ‘attack on Welsh culture’. The cuts of up to -25% will particularly impact Cadw and the Royal Commission, as well as numerous small organisations they in turn support – in 2022, £1.6million in grants were distributed to more than 30 historic places, and heritage and conservation groups. The Society has written to the Deputy Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism to express our extreme concern at the devastating effect these cuts will have on the work of many important and highly valued organisations, urging them to reconsider.
Cadw is the body responsible for policy and safeguarding Wales’ historic places, while the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales is responsible for recording built heritage and maintaining the National Monuments Record of Wales. A recent report underlined the importance of the heritage sector as a key contributor to the Welsh economy: Taken together, the historic
environment, heritage tourism and heritage construction directly support 3% of Wales’s total employment (40,670 jobs), while heritage tourism accounts for more than 5 million visitors annually.
C20 was formally appointed as a statutory consultee in Wales on October 3rd 2022, whereafter all local authorities are required to notify the Society of any planning applications for listed building consent and demolition, ultimately helping us to preserve more modern architectural and design heritage across the nation.
C20 has a recently established a flourishing volunteer-led Welsh branch, C20 Cymru. The Royal Commission, in partnership with the Twentieth Century Society and C20 Cymru, had just announced a two-day conference ‘Building Modern Wales: An Introduction to 20th Century Architecture and Design’. This event was due to be the first of its kind, aiming to introduce the built heritage of 20th-century Wales and promote discussion and debate around the understanding, appreciation, protection, conservation, and reuse of heritage assets of the period. Presentations covering overviews of key architectural styles, architects, planning developments, and building types and discussions concerning designation, recording, conservation, and retrofit had been arranged.
The huge value of this to those working across the built environment sector including planners, conservation officers, architects, academics, heritage professionals, and funding bodies, as well as those with a general interest in the architecture and design of the 20th century had already been demonstrated by substantial ticket sales. It was due to be held in Aberystwyth on March, but has had to be cancelled as a result of the cuts, squandering much paid and volunteer time already expended on its planning and organisation.
We are urging the Senedd to reconsider this short-sighted funding decision and ensure the adequate on-going funding of a key part of the sector for which they have a statutory responsibility. While the financial pressures facing the Welsh Government are clear, a more modest 2024-5 budget reduction for the heritage sector of 10% – instead of the current 25% – would be in line with the cuts to the Museum, Library and Arts Council budgets, avoiding unnecessary job losses and allowing essential services to be maintained.