What does Darling's annoucement mean for museums?

  • 10 October 2007

Alistair Darling's pre-budget report promised the Department of Culture, Media and Sport an increase in its budget to £2.2bn in three years' time.

According to the chancellor: “This guarantees an inflation increase for the arts, free access to museums and galleries..and it will deliver the Cultural Olympiad in the run-up to London 2012.”

The allocations of funds to museums and galleries is yet to be decided by the Department, but as Art Fund Director David Barrie noted, “the reality is that after all the investment of the past ten years we are seeing a significant shift away from the arts towards sport and in particular to fund the Olympics.” This is not good news for the national museums and galleries, whose costs have been rising much faster than the retail price index.

If museums and galleries are to continue to thrive, we are going to have to find ways to draw in more private support. The time is right to renew discussions over ways to encourage philanthropy, and we hope that the government will seize the moment to engage with this debate. Why not engage creatively with non-UK domiciled tax payers and private equity bosses by encourage them to contribute more to our country’s cultural wealth. After all, a strong cultural infrastructure will in turn make a city more attractive to businesses.

We will monitor closely the impact of the increase in the inheritance tax threshold (from £300,000 to £600,000) – at present anyone who is liable for the payment of an inheritance tax bill can offer a work of art or heritage object in part or whole payment of the tax. This is known as Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) and has become one of the most important ways of enriching the UK’s public collections and archives. In the last decade the AIL scheme has acquired collections and items to a value in excess of £250 million.

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Department of Culture, Media and Sport