County council-run heritage sites expected to become self-funding in two years

Lincolnshire County Council offices in Lincoln. Photo: Rob Foulkes EMN-150915-141818001
Lincolnshire County Council offices in Lincoln. Photo: Rob Foulkes EMN-150915-141818001

Lincolnshire’s visitor attractions are being urged to take charge of their finances and become self sufficient as the county council seeks to balance the books faced with funding cuts.

The council’s Executive committee has approved plans that will allow its heritage service to explore new ways to make money and sustain the service for the future.

Previously, money made by the attractions has gone back into the corporate pot and heritage has been given a budget. The new model will mean that the service keeps everything it makes in order to fund its activities. The service will have a target to fund itself by 2018.

Coun Nick Worth, executive member for culture and heritage, insists this is not about leaving the county’s visitor attractions to sink or swim. He said: “It’s an exciting time for the heritage service. This new way of working is more commercially savvy. It will mean more freedom to generate income and the ability to reinvest income back into heritage.

“The council’s budget position is not going to improve. We’ve got an estimated budget shortfall of £74m over the next three years, on top of the £145m we’ve cut from the budget since 2010. It’s right that the heritage service plays its part.

“By giving the heritage service a target to fund itself, we’re saving the taxpayer money and keeping the attractions open.”

The main county council run heritage sites are: Gainsborough Old Hall, Lincoln Castle, The Collection, The Usher Gallery, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight visitor centre, Lincolnshire Archives and the Museum of Lincolnshire Life. A council spokesman said there is no suggestion of closures at this stage but they will all be closely monitored and reviewed. The income raised will be shared among all the sites.

Nicole Hilton, communities commissioner, said: “This is an opportunity to look at things differently to keep our heritage service running. We’ve got a high quality offer and we’ve seen what can be achieved in the last 18 months, particularly at Lincoln Castle. We’re already on the radar for national companies, galleries and museums, who are approaching us more and more about significant exhibitions and events. I’m confident with the expertise we have in our service, and the quality of the attractions, we have a fighting chance of meeting our target to make enough money to fund ourselves by 2018.”