Funding cuts suspend London blue plaque scheme

Plaque for Vincent Van Gogh in Brixton Blue plaques like this one at Vincent Van Gogh's former Brixton home have been used to commemorate achievements for nearly 150 years

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English Heritage says it is to stop its blue plaque scheme because government funding cuts had made it impossible for it to continue.

The organisation, due to celebrate 150 years of commemorative plaques in London in 2016, has had its funding cut by 34%.

Last year, English Heritage said it had had to cut back on installations.

The last shortlisted nominations will be put in place over the next two years, the organisation said.

The scheme sees commemorative plaques attached to residences in London where famous personalities lived.

Inspiring Londoners

The last time installations were suspended was due to war-time economies from 1915 to 1919 and 1940 to 1947.

The scheme, responsible for 869 plaques across London, is solely funded by the government.

Will first stripper make it?

Phyllis Dixey

Phyllis Dixey, the first woman to perform a striptease in London, is on the shortlist but a disagreement over the wording and positioning of her plaque could mean she loses out.

English Heritage historians have recommended she is described as a 'striptease artiste' but 'burlesque dancer' is among the alternatives suggested by residents in St Marks Hill, Surbiton, south-west London.

English Heritage has had its budget cut from £130m in 2010/11 to £92m by 2014 with a "front-loaded" cut of £18m in the first year.

A spokeswoman said it costs an average £965 per plaque.

She said that by reducing the team by two full-time equivalent posts and suspending installations, about £120,000 would be saved each year for two years.

A shortlist of "tens" of people agreed by the independent advisory panel will be worked through.

A plaque to be unveiled for architect John Nash in Great Russell Street next week will be among the last.

A spokeswoman said the decision to suspend installing plaques had been made before Christmas and new applicants were now being made aware.

She said it was hoped that by 2015 alternative funding could be secured or that another organisation could take over the scheme.

A statement read: "English Heritage remains committed to the Blue Plaques scheme that has done so much to inspire Londoners and visitors with the history of the capital and its inhabitants."

In light of 2010 government cut backs, English Heritage prioritised its planning advice services, the maintenance and conservation of its properties, existing grant commitments and its Buildings at Risk programme.

The plaque scheme was originally run by the Royal Society of Arts.

London County Council and then the Greater London Council ran it from 1901 to 1986 before it passed to English Heritage.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    This is a case for lottery funding. Not state funding from taxes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Why is this scheme only being cut in London? If it were extended to other areas would not the costs saved be greater and so other areas would not have their funding cut?

  • Comment number 127.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    "Stunned that this is state funded. Like the Olympics. it is amazing how much public money gets wasted pimping our country to tourists so that a few of us can make a nice profit employing students and migrants on minimum wage or below."
    You forgot to mention the subsidy to employers implicit in the working tax credit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    As there are 869 plaques , and funding is being 'cut' to £92,000,000 p.a. , my basic maths skills work this out at to about £105,000 per plaque per year.

    Only government could spend at this level.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    I admire what English Heritage does and am very pro for it to receive funding and to continue to keep important historical monuments and buildings in good shape. However the staff salaries do seem a bit over the top and perhaps they should use more volunteers like the National Trust do. Also I bet half the cost of the plaques goes towards untangling red tape, getting permission and costly admin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    I don't think we need a 'department' to deal with this. Can't the local main library or even the local cultural team at the local Council deal with this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    A saving of £240k. Harldy likely given the two posts being cut and possibly two people ending up on benefits. Why cut jobs instead of production costs as some have mentioned. A similar amount could no doubt be saved on no state funeral for any ex PM who may pass on during the recession.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.


    Which of the many mentions of London - in London - across London - Inspire Londoners - London County Council - Greater London Council did you miss in the article?

    It is the London plaque scheme which is to be cut.

    You are right, though, about the general cuts. I did point out that it was English Heritage as an organisation which was to suffer. However, I disagree with you about the reasons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    103. "And what is so wrong about providing public information which some people might find interesting?"
    "some people might" - that is one thing wrong with it. The cost is the other.
    £120,000 could fund more teachers that pupils would benefit from.
    £120,000 could fund another doctor that patients would benefit from.
    £120,000 could fund all sorts of things that did not involve mere 'interest'

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Easy solution. A blue badge only costs a tenner. Issue the houses with a blue badge instead and save £915 per property. :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Can someone explain how a plaque can cost £965?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    I must confess I love blue plaques. Always stop to read them, and occasionally I even know who they're talking about.

    But the costs do sound steep. EH must explore cost savings. Research? Free volunteers would love the task. Production? A potter would turn them out for fifty quid. Installation? Ladder, drill, two rawlplugs, two screws, ten minutes.

    Come on EH! Keep those plaques coming!

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    If we were to privatise English Heritage.. There would be Blue plaques being put up on dodgy MPs and Bankers homes !!

  • Comment number 115.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    @100 Completely disagree
    The BP scheme is an excellent reminder of people of importance who have graced our city. Architects, artists, engineers.... all add value to our lives either now or in the past. Very small minded attitude. EH should look to reduce their petty bureaucracy applicable to listed property, let people work on houses and retain enough funding for the Plaques.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    I enjoy the Blue Plaques, but there are already a lot about the place.
    It is probably the right answer for further plaques to be put up in times of plenty, rather than now when the government's efforts to reduce the deficit are going so badly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    There are a few of these in my hometown, and honestly I didn't know about those bits of history that the plaques state. It's an interesting insight into the local history, something that is rarely taught in schools or even really seen anywhere outside the local museums.

    Granted though they could be cheaper but they are nice things to have around.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Our bureacrats move in mysterious ways there wonders are not to perform but to waste public money in many other tedious ways but not on things which adds colour by recording human deeds and aspirations to our visual landscape.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Stunned that this is state funded. Like the Olympics. it is amazing how much public money gets wasted pimping our country to tourists so that a few of us can make a nice profit employing students and migrants on minimum wage or below.


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