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MSs debate ‘irrational’ culture cuts

27 Jun 2024 4 minute read
The National Library of Wales

Harri Thomas

Senedd members debated a 12,075-name petition calling on the Welsh Government to reverse cuts to Wales’ cultural institutions.

Rhiannon Passmore led a debate on the petition, spearheaded by Sue Jones Davies, about cuts to the national library, Amgueddfa Cymru and royal commission.

Standing in for Jack Sargeant, the petitions committee chair who is on paternity leave, Ms Passmore warned the Welsh Government is facing “impossible” funding decisions.

The Labour backbencher highlighted the economic benefits of investing in the culture and arts sector, stating, “Every £1 invested in the sector leads to £5 worth of growth.”

She said: “These institutions are the backbone of our nation and the beating heart of our international reputation as a land of song, poetry, and culture – in short, brand Wales.”


The petitioner warned cultural institutions, which offer a window into Wales’ unique history, face cuts of between 10.5% and 22.3%.

Delyth Jewell, chair of the culture committee, called on the Welsh Government to enter urgent negotiations to protect the national collections.

She emphasised the impracticality of placing the burden of protecting national collections on one Welsh Government department, warning: “There is too much at stake.”

Highlighting the wider value of culture, Ms Jewell told the Senedd: “The value of what they provide us, in terms of wellbeing, cannot be measured in balance sheets.

“They are unique, irreplaceable riches that catalogue and complement our experience of being Welsh and human. Once cultural heritage is lost, it will be lost to us and to the ages.”

‘Wholly irrational’

Tom Giffard, for the Conservatives, underscored the need to protect our heritage as he accused the Welsh Government of failing to prioritise the sector.

He told the chamber: “We know, for example, in the last budget that the cultural sector had the biggest cut in terms of contributions to its budget.”

Mr Giffard accused Welsh ministers of failing to heed warnings about maintenance issues, such as leaking roofs, and the pressures facing national institutions.

He said Amgueddfa Cymru faces the biggest cut in its history and Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg has warned of the disastrous impact on the Welsh language.

The South Wales West MS described the cuts, which amount to a 0.02% saving on the Welsh Government’s overall budget, as wholly irrational.


Heledd Fychan, Plaid Cymru’s shadow culture secretary, told the Senedd she has been left shocked and devastated by the scale and depth of the cuts.

She said trade unions report 144 jobs have been lost, with a restructure of front-of-house roles set to severely impact staff on lower grades.

Ms Fychan, who worked for Amgueddfa Cymru before her election in 2021, warned that arts and culture are too often pitched against the NHS in funding rounds.

She said: “If we are to truly value culture, we must take action and ensure cuts are reversed. The amount needed is minimal in terms of the Welsh Government’s overall budget.”

The South Wales Central MS warned that arts and culture are becoming “more elitist by the day” when they could be transformational in terms contributing to health and education.


Plaid Cymru’s Peredur Owen Griffiths warned that Big Pit has had to cut front-of-house staff and tours, while the canteen no longer serves food for visitors.

The South Wales East MS said: “Without proper investment in this essential access to our proud and unique heritage, it will only continue to dwindle.”

Rhys ab Owen, who sits as an independent, raised comments from the former chief librarian who warned the Welsh Government is at war with the sector.

Raising the Scottish Government’s announcement of an extra £15m for culture, he said: “While they support their culture and heritage, we gut our own – it’s simply not sustainable.”

Carolyn Thomas, a Labour backbencher who represents North Wales, said the Welsh Government has had to find savings due to “Tory economic mismanagement”.

‘Tough decisions’

Lesley Griffiths acknowledged the impact of cuts but warned the Welsh Government was forced to make tough decisions to radically reshape spending plans.

Wales’ culture secretary said: “I’m fully aware of the impact that budget reductions have had on Amgueddfa Cymru, the national library and the royal commission.”

Ms Griffiths, who was appointed in March following Vaughan Gething’s election, said she inherited the budget and had no flexibility to prevent cuts.

She said officials are working with the museum and library on a plan to tackle the maintenance backlog and identify funding options.

Ms Griffiths committed to supporting institutions to “thrive, not merely survive” but warned: “The outlook for the public finances remains challenging and so we have to be pragmatic.”

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