Our brief analysis of this feedback is that Sheffield’s bid was marked down solely on grounds of our ‘core budget weakness’ undermining our ‘resilience’. In other words, the fact that our core budget is smaller than other services has been interpreted as making Sheffield less capable of delivering the other criteria (for which we scored either ‘outstanding’ or ‘strong’). The bid guidance requires applicants to be ‘sustainable, resilient and innovative’. At no point does it reference core budget size, nor imply that this goal will significantly outweigh others.
Museums Sheffield prides itself on the efficient service it maintains on limited means. In the 14 years since Museums Sheffield was established ‘resilience’ (defined as the ability to sustain existence and withstand shocks) has been perhaps our most notable strength. Furthermore, at a time when Sheffield City Council has been tasked with passing on £57m of savings from central government, they offered to maintain Museums Sheffield’s funding at current levels for the next 3 years – the clearest possible commitment they could give to our sustainability.
In their recent statement Arts Council England recognise that ‘historically, investment levels in the arts have varied across England’ and that this is something they are ‘working hard with our funding partners to address’. The question remains, why was the largest national funding programme for museums over the next 3 years not seen as an opportunity to redress this balance? Why was it considered acceptable to actually increase the divide, and withdraw funding from a successful organisation in an under-funded region?
The Arts Council again reference transitional funding and their commitment to investing in the future of Museums Sheffield. We are grateful to Arts Council Yorkshire for fast-tracking an initial transitional payment. However, our visitors and supporters need to be absolutely clear – transitional funding will largely pay for Museums Sheffield to lay off staff and wind down activity. The strategic funding we may be able to apply for later in the year is of a much smaller scale than the Major Grant funding denied to Sheffield, and will not support our ambitions for the future as the Arts Council’s statement suggests.
Museums Sheffield staff were informed in an emergency meeting this morning that our voluntary board of trustees, faced with a huge budget reduction from 1 April, have no choice but to enact a large-scale programme of redundancies, affecting every level of the organisation. Tears were shed. Not personal tears, from those about to lose their jobs, but tears for 14 years of hard-won growth and resilience in the city we’re proud to call our own.
Feb 01 2012