Wales

Welsh heritage bodies reject plans for formal mergers

  • 2 February 2017
  • From the section Wales
Chepstow Castle Image copyright Getty Images

Welsh heritage bodies have rejected a formal merger of any of their functions.

But government-controlled Cadw will become independent in recommendations to Economy Secretary Ken Skates.

An independent review of National Museum Wales (NMW) will also be held and will be published by the summer.

It follows strong opposition to proposals to merge some commercial functions of heritage bodies into a new organisation Historic Wales.

This opposition came from NMW and others in the heritage and museums industry.

Formal discussions have taken place between historical monument and buildings body Cadw, NMW, the National Library of Wales (NLW), the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments (RCAHMW) and trade unions.

Meanwhile, five meetings of a steering group have been held in recent months, with nine recommendations submitted to the Welsh Government following its final meeting on 27 January.

Despite the government stating its intention last year was to "bring together" the commercial functions of Cadw and NMW, only a more informal collaboration in some front-of-house areas has been agreed.

The recommendations include:

  • Taking Cadw out of government - either to become a charitable body or an executive agency
  • Creating a "strategic partnership" between heritage bodies, with members of senior management meeting regularly to discuss potential areas of cooperation
  • Collaboration on some commercial functions, such as items stocked in gift shops
  • Sharing some back office functions without risk of job losses
  • Greater collaboration to promote Wales' World Heritage Sites

The group will also ask the Welsh Government to decide whether the Historic Wales brand will be used and in which areas.

A NMW spokesman said its trustees would consider the recommendations.

"It is important to us that any recommendations taken forward are subject to feasibility studies and business cases.

"This is to ensure that they respect the identity, integrity, independence and core purpose, as well as the commercial interest of each institution, whilst also increasing collaboration and income generation."

'Global in ambition'

Mr Skates has issued a ministerial statement, in which he said he would "consider the recommendations in the report in detail" and would respond to each in due course.

He has also announced an independent review of NMW, which he said followed a letter from the museum last year setting out the challenges facing the organisation.

It will be carried out by Dr Simon Thurley, the former chief executive of English Heritage, to examine the museum's performance and potential.

Doubts about the plans to formally merge some functions were expressed by the Museums Association and the director of National Museums Liverpool, while objections were also made by the former librarian of NLW Andrew Green and ex-arts council chairman Prof Dai Smith.

NMW's director general David Anderson told the assembly's culture committee that the museum would be "tied by the legs" if it lost management of some of its commercial operations.

The Museums Association warned the plan could risk the museum's financial sustainability.

The creation of Historic Wales was a commitment in Labour's election manifesto - one which Mr Skates said would "help build a heritage sector that is global in ambition and internationally renowned" and ensure the institutions were more "financially resilient".

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