Libraries and museums get share of 250m boost

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Image caption The National Railway Museum in York – currently home to Stephenson’s Rocket – will get further funding

Libraries, museums and other cultural institutions in England are to benefit from a five-year £250m government fund.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said it would set aside £125m for the upkeep of libraries and museums.

It comes two weeks after museum leaders said infrastructure was at “breaking point”, with crumbling buildings threatening their collections.

“Creative and cultural institutions are at the heart of our communities,” Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan said.

“This will help drive growth, rejuvenate high streets and attract tourists to our world-class cultural attractions.”

More than £90m will go to extending the Cultural Development Fund, which is for arts, culture, heritage and the creative industries in towns and cities outside London.

The fund was launched last year, with the first grants going to projects hoping to spark regeneration in Grimsby, the Thames Estuary, Plymouth, Wakefield and Worcester.

A further £7m has been allocated to Coventry for its plans as UK City of Culture 2021, while £18.5m has been allocated to York’s National Railway Museum.

“This is wonderful news for the National Railway Museum – and for the City of York,” museum director Judith McNicol said, noting it could help to turn the museum into “a truly world-class attraction”.

‘Swingeing cuts’

Many of the nation’s cultural institutions have endured funding cuts over recent years, especially outside the capital.

English local authorities’ cultural spending reportedly fell by £48m between 2014/15 and 2018/19, while almost 1,000 libraries shut in the UK between 2010 and 2018.

In August, staff at the Science Museum Group, which runs York’s Railway Museum and London’s Science Museum, staged a strike in a dispute over pay. Workers at Bradford’s libraries and museums also voted to go on strike over what a union called “swingeing cuts”.

Elsewhere, Essex County Council reversed a decision to close 25 of 74 libraries in July but said it wanted volunteers to run some smaller branches, while in August the High Court ruled Northamptonshire County Council’s plan to close 21 of its 36 libraries was unlawful.

The funding will “make a massive difference”, Museums Association Sharon Heal said. “Our members have told us about crumbling ceilings, leaking roofs and a lack of money to be able to carry out basic maintenance work.

“Often museums are housed in historic properties that have suffered from years of neglect and in order to protect our fantastic collections and ensure that our communities can continue to enjoy them we need to act now – this funding will enable museums and galleries in England to do just that.”

The £250m will be delivered by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) along with Arts Council England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England.

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