Jersey Heritage: Budget doubts may lead to cuts

La Cotte..Picture:DAVID FERGUSON. (38545756)

JERSEY Heritage may have to cut some of its activities in response to uncertainties over its long-term funding.

The organisation’s chief executive Jon Carter said that they had already paused archaeological work at La Cotte de St Brelade and were “looking at other potential changes to inform government decisions on what a sustainable heritage service looks like”. He was speaking after questions were recently raised in the States about the increased government budget set aside for culture and why Jersey Heritage’s funding had been frozen in 2023 and had risen by only 6% this year, compared with inflationary increases of around 25%.

Mr Carter accepted that Jersey Heritage received a “substantial grant increase” in 2022 but said that this had been matched to a new service level agreement with additional commitments reflecting ambitions for the sector set out in the government’s new heritage strategy.

He said that recent commitments agreed with the government have included free entry to Jersey Museum, year-round opening of sites, increased capacity at the Jersey Archive and additional educational work.

With rising costs, he would not speculate on options if the board needed to close the gap in its finances.

“We have already had to pause some projects including important archaeological work at the world-famous La Cotte de St Brelade site this year. We are now looking at other potential changes to inform government decisions on what a sustainable heritage service looks like. We are looking forward to a constructive engagement with our funders about a future that, as supporters of the 1% policy put it at the time, allows the cultural sector to thrive rather than just survive,” Mr Carter said.

Appearing before Scrutiny last year, he warned then that below-inflation increases in the organisation’s annual funding “posed challenges to levels of service delivery”.

Mr Carter’s comments follow exchanges in the States prompted by questions from Deputy Montfort Tadier – who in 2019 secured States’ approval for the 1% policy – and from Deputy Jonathan Renouf. Deputy Tadier accused Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel of allowing “a further period of atrophy” over funding for the organisation.

“In a period of 25% interest in inflation rates, this organisation, which does sterling work for Jersey in terms of its cultural heritage, has got simply 6% while others got 23%, 22%, 29% and the budget for festivals went up by 53%, all of which are great, because they all do such good work,” he said.

The suggestion of atrophy was vigorously denied in the States by Deputy Morel who referred to the near doubling of funding in 2022.

“I was faced with requests for funding for many different areas, not just arms’-length organisations but also small and individual organisations. In order to satisfy those requests while also implementing arts and heritage strategies, I chose to keep the 2023 grant for Jersey Heritage at the same level as 2022. That was a vast increase on 2021. Jersey Heritage… also has the ability to get subscriptions from members and entrance and other means of raising extra funding in other ways, operating essentially as a business,” Deputy Morel said, adding that the 1% was not just for Jersey Heritage but for “the entire arts and culture ecosystem as well as the entire heritage ecosystem”.

Jersey Heritage’s agreed services are defined by a service level agreement with the government which was first introduced in 2010, following a funding crisis which saw cuts in services and redundancies in response to rising costs.

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