Public consultation on proposals to slash Cultural Services budget by more than half - AGRA responds
Surrey County Council are the latest to propose a dramatic spending cut likely to impact on heritage and archive provision. The total budget for Cultural Services budget for 2019/20 may be slashed from £8.7 million to £4 million. The loss of funding will have a significant effect on the work of the Surrey History Centre, and the services they can provide.
A public consultation is in progress to enable individuals with views on the proposed budgetary strategy to express them to the Council - the deadline for responses is Friday 4 January 2019.
AGRA's chair, Sharon Grant, has sent the following letter to Mary Lewis (Cabinet Member for All-Age Learning) and Denise Turner (Cabinet Member for Community Services):
14 December 2018
Dear Cabinet Member
I am writing as the Chair of The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) to express our concern about the authority’s plans for drastic cuts to be imposed on the Surrey History Centre more than halfway through this current financial year, and the cuts being proposed for next year. This issue has been brought to the attention of our Council by some of our Members who are both resident in Surrey and users of the Surrey Heritage Centre.
AGRA is the largest professional organisation of accredited Members in the UK and we promote high professional standards in the field of genealogy and historical research. AGRA also acts as a representative voice in matters relating to genealogy. Our members are users of county records offices and other local (and national) archives, and we have noted over recent times the increasing trend for archive services to be cut without any regard to the practical impact on service users that are researchers, both professional and non-professional. We acknowledge that these are challenging times for all local authorities but it is our view is that these are drastic cuts, which can only be achieved by severely reducing staffing levels and the consequence of that is likely to be reduced opening times and/or inferior access to the holdings.
Your archive service is a Place of Deposit in England and Wales, as regulated by The National Archives (TNA). This gives a national perspective to your archive service which requires consideration alongside the very important duty to provide local services to local people. Your current consultation on the “Five Principles” fails to recognise this and, indeed, it is worded in such a way to exclude organisations such as ours from commenting.
Our members have other interests beyond professional client work. They are local historians, run one-name and one-place studies, investigate their personal family histories and, indeed, are also volunteers for archive services where they give back far more than they take. They form part of a wide network of researchers, including academic researchers and highly proficient members of the public. It is through this network that local history is revealed to all, sometimes through chance discoveries. The adverse impact of these cuts on the heritage of the County of Surrey for future generations is something that should not be underestimated.
We urge you to reconsider these cuts which, sadly, come so soon after the Surrey History Centre celebrated its 20th Anniversary of opening. The Centre is regarded as a state-of-the art centre for archives and an example of good practice. It will be regrettable indeed if this reputation is damaged by severe under resourcing.
Have your say at:
Questions 2.1 and 4.3 in the survey include space for you to express your views more fully on the county’s heritage service and its future shape and role in meeting the Council’s priorities.