As the annual Heritage Open Days start this week, cuts to the funding of Historic England and other heritage bodies mean our heritage is under increasing threat.
During the summer heat wave, two Neolithic cursus monuments near Clifton Reynes, Milton Keynes were uncovered through aerial survey. According to Historic England, they are one of the oldest monument types in the country, usually dating from between 3600 and 3000BC.
English Heritage, which looks after sites in the guardianship of the state (sites like Stonehenge or Fountains Abbey) on behalf of the government, will lose all its government grant in the next two years, and has resorted this summer to crowd-funding appeals over the internet to enable it to carry out vital repairs to some of the castles in its care (https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/defend-our-castles/)
Charlynne Pullen, Labour’s candidate in Milton Keynes North commented:
“It was fantastic to see such historic monuments appear during the summer heatwave, but Tory austerity cuts to heritage spending over successive years mean the heritage is at more risk through neglect and the public will increasingly have to pay to access our heritage. Historic England are experiencing cuts of nearing 50% since 2010 in grants from government, while English Heritage will lose their funding entirely by 2020, almost certainly resulting in higher entry charges. If this continues, our heritage will no longer be accessible to the general public, and will once again become the preserve of the elite.”
There are many benefits to heritage, for example, of all those who visit museums, 20% are more likely to report good health. In terms of economic benefits, every £1 invested in heritage generates between £4 and £6, and the heritage sector was responsible for £20.2bn in tourist expenditure in England in 2015.
“Cuts to Historic England put this kind of aerial survey under threat, and may mean that it cannot be repeated in future years” she added. “Mark Lancaster, the Tory MP for MK North, tweeted his congratulations on the discovery, while at the same time, his government is cutting the very money that made it possible”