With each passing year, the number of pages of editorial given over to analysing the Government’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement goes up and we at Explorer Travel Insurance have no wish to add to the millions of words that have already been written about them. Nor do we consider ourselves in any way qualified to comment on what was announced by the government. (We’ll continue to restrict our area of expertise to providing travel insurance services). However, we we were struck by a few items announced by the Chancellor last week week that we think represent good news for travellers and tourists, wherever you are.
Given how important a role our museums play in attracting overseas visitors, we certainly applauded the fact that, as part of the Settlement that the Chancellor reached with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), there would continue to be free access to our national museums and galleries. This, together with the £150 million that the government has pledged to give to the British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum so they can both replace outdated museum storage facilities at Blythe House shows that the Government recognises this importance too.
The investment will mean that ‘world-class storage facilities’ can be built there that will help preserve and protect over two million fragile or sensitive objects. We knew that the Victorians were great collectors, but two million objects?!
The government also pledged to work with museums and galleries in looking at the case for introducing a new tax relief for the sector and promised to make two further culture-led investments, £5m to expand the Great Exhibition of the North, which will celebrate the art, design and culture of the North and £15m towards a Great Exhibition Legacy Fund, which will “pave the way for future cultural investment in the Northern Powerhouse”. (It would seem that the Chancellor is much taken with the Northern Powerhouse idea).
The Government also agreed to make permanent the ‘operational freedoms’ that it had granted to national museums in 2013, and which will now be extended to other public institutions including the British Film Institute (BFI), the National Army Museum, the National Museum of the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force Museum, Historic England and the Churches Conservation Trust. This means that these institutions can become more self-sufficient which should hopefully, lead to increased visitation and help secure their long term futures.
Altogether, the financial package offered by the government totalled £40m and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport John Whittingdale acknowledged how important this would be in helping encourage tourism in the UK. Commenting on the settlement reached for his department he said, “The extra £40 million for English tourism will boost visitor numbers in towns and cities, our national museums will remain free to enter and we will continue to preserve our cherished heritage sites for generations”. Hear hear we say.